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School Library Journal
Crystal, a British linguist, may be a stranger to American teens, but many will delight in making his acquaintance through this book of short, punchy essays. Inspired by the popularity of fellow radio-personality Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves [Penguin, 2004]), he makes his own argument for English as flexible, rather than needing careful preservation. Where Truss has "zero tolerance" for those who would trespass on the language's rules of order, Crystal delights in showing how purists and pundits, to say nothing of simply unconscious communicators, have shaped and reshaped English across more than a thousand years. The language as it is spoken nearest London gained favor in the eyes of snobs and academia alike. However, as the author cogently points out, there is nothing intrinsically more valuable about how one speaker communicates thoughts, feelings, and ideas over how his neighbor to the north or across the ocean designs her pronunciation or phrasing. Teens will especially enjoy the discussions of spelling (which include texting's orthographic changes) and the childish rancor with which historical personages presumed airs when speaking ill of the way Shakespeare used the language. This compendium is a treasure trove for students of political and social history, and for those who simply enjoy language's quirks. The brevity of the essays-coupled with their high quality-provides excellent and accessible models for those in need of inspiration to write their own nonfiction.
—Francisca GoldsmithCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.