The Story of English: Third Revised Edition

Overview

Now revised, The Story of English is the first book to tell the whole story of the English language. Originally paired with a major PBS miniseries, this book presents a stimulating and comprehensive record of spoken and written English—from its Anglo-Saxon origins some two thousand years ago to the present day, when English is the dominant language of commerce and culture with more than one billion English speakers around the world. From Cockney, Scouse, and Scots to Gulla, Singlish, Franglais, and the latest ...

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Overview

Now revised, The Story of English is the first book to tell the whole story of the English language. Originally paired with a major PBS miniseries, this book presents a stimulating and comprehensive record of spoken and written English—from its Anglo-Saxon origins some two thousand years ago to the present day, when English is the dominant language of commerce and culture with more than one billion English speakers around the world. From Cockney, Scouse, and Scots to Gulla, Singlish, Franglais, and the latest African American slang, this sweeping history of the English language is the essential introduction for anyone who wants to know more about our common tongue.

The renowned and lavishly illustrated history of the evolution of the English language and the companion to PBS's acclaimed series--now completely revised and expanded. "Rarely has the English language been scanned so brightly and broadly in a single volume."--San Francisco Chronicle. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A tie-in for a nine-part television series to be broadcast over PBS beginning in September, this is a wide-ranging account of the travels and changes of the English tongue from its beginnings to tomorrow, from England to America to Australia to Africa and India and the Pacific. Despite an occasionally perceptible British bias, the authors have tried hard to paint a colorful, vivid picture of the many faces and varieties of English. The text is never dull, but is enlivened by innumerable examples and by interviews with representative individuals: a minister in Scotland, a couple from the Appalachians, a storekeeper in Newfoundland, a Philadelphia shoeshine man, a cockney fruitseller, an Australian farm family, the president of Sierra Leone, a writing professor in India. A readable book that all public libraries should have. BOMC alternate. Catherine V. von Schon, SUNY, Stony Brook
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142002315
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/17/2002
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 399,286
  • Product dimensions: 5.33 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert McCrum

Robert McCrum is the author of six novels and My Year Off: Rediscovering Life After a Stroke. Now literary editor of The Observer, he is working on an authorized biography of P. G. Wodehouse.

Robert MacNeil was the co-anchor of PBS's The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. His books include two volumes of memoirs and three novels including his latest, Breaking News.

William Cran is the executive producer for the television series The Story of English.

Biography

Although not a household name in America, editor and writer Robert McCrum has had an enormous impact on the current state of literature. In his 20 years as Editor-in-Chief at famed British publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum transformed a largely mediocre fiction list into a roster that included such successful and influential novelists as Peter Carey, Paul Auster, and Vikram Seth. In 1996, McCrum turned a semi-regular stint writing for the British newspaper The Observer into a fulltime position as literary editor, where he remains today. Somewhere along the line, he found the time to publish six of his own novels, co-author a best-selling history of the English language, and research and write a critically lauded biography of English humorist P.G. Wodehouse.

After graduating from Cambridge's Corpus Christi College on a history scholarship, McCrum set off across the pond with a post-graduate scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his MA, and then left the world of academia forever, opting instead to take a one-year extended tour of America in his Buick Skylark.

Back in England, McCrum took a job as a publicity assistant at Chatto & Windus. McCrum's intelligence, charm, and competitive streak quickly put him on the map as a rising star in British publishing. In 1979, a mere two years after starting at Chatto & Windus, McCrum began his successful run at Faber and Faber.

Never one to settle for complacency, McCrum published his first novel the following year, a thriller about the inner workings of British national intelligence called In the Secret State. His second novel, A Loss of Heart, was released in 1982. Two years after that, yet another novel, The Fabulous Englishman, was released to solid reviews and sales.

McCrum's biggest success came as co-author 1986 publication of The Story of English, which was released in tandem with a 10-part PBS documentary of the same name. McCrum's work on the series earned him an Emmy and a Peabody award, and the book became an international bestseller that still sells briskly in its 3rd revised edition.

And so McCrum's seemingly charmed life continued into the 90s. A fourth novel, Mainland, came out in 1992, and McCrum was putting the finishing touches on his next novel, Suspicion, when tragedy struck. In the summer of 1995, he awoke to find his entire left side paralyzed by a devastating stroke. Only 42 years old, McCrum's world shifted overnight. The writer's natural curiosity and need to communicate persevered, however, and in 1998 he released a critically-acclaimed memoir of his year spent in recovery entitled My Year Off.

Shortly after the publication of My Year Off, McCrum launched full-force into work on Wodehouse: A Life. Research for the biography of the famed English humorist would take him all over the world, from Wodehouse's homes in California to the German camp where he was interned during World War II to New York City. "It seems to me that you can't begin to understand someone until you see where they lived, what they saw out of the window when they woke up, and the kind of people they were living near," McCrum has said.

Four years spent traveling and reading Wodehouse's vast amounts of published and unpublished works paid off with a biography that critics have hailed as the definitive chronicle of the life of P.G. Wodehouse.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with McCrum:

"I'm a) tall b) speak English c) like a drink."

"My first job was looking after a parrot in a zoo."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 7, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cambridge, England
    1. Education:
      Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, England, 1972-75; University of Pennsylvania, 1975-76

Table of Contents

The Story of English List of Maps New Introduction to the Third Edition Introduction: Speaking of English
1. An English-Speaking World
2. The Mother Tongue
3. A Muse of Fire
4. The Guid Scots Tongue
5. The Loaded Weapon
6. Black on White
7. Pioneers! O Pioneers!
8. The Echoes of an English Voice
9. The New Englishes
10. Next Year's Words Notes and Sources Select Bibliography Acknowledgments Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    A Fascinating Treasure Trove for Etymologists

    At my small business college, when I showed selected lectures to my first-term English students, they were entranced. Many of them had no knowledge of the origins of English and were amazed at the wealth and length of history behind modern English. The explanations of specific words' evolutions from their ancient origins into modern forms particularly interested them. The lecturers are brilliant, and their vocabulary will challenge and add to any class's command of language. I highly recommend this set to teachers of English from high school to college level.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2011

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