Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

by David Crystal


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"Let there be light," "A fly in the ointment," "New wine in old bottles," "How are the mighty fallen," "The salt of the earth." All these everyday phrases owe their popularity to the King James Bible. Indeed, it is said that this astonishing Bible has contributed more to the color and grace of the English language than almost any other literary source.

In Begat, best-selling language expert David Crystal offers a stimulating tour of the verbal richness and incredible reach of the King James Bible. How can a work published in 1611 have had such a lasting influence on the language? To answer this question, Crystal offers fascinating discussions of phrases such as "The skin of one's teeth" or "Out of the mouth of babes," tracing how these memorable lines have found independent life in the work of poets, playwrights, novelists, politicians, and journalists, and how more recently they have been taken up with enthusiasm by advertisers, Hollywood, and hip-hop. He shows, for instance, how "Let there be light" has resurfaced as "Let there be lite," the title of a diet cookbook, and "Let there be flight," the title of an article about airport delays. Along the way, Crystal reminds us that the King James Bible owes much to earlier translations, notably those by Wycliffe in the fourteenth century and Tyndale in the sixteenth. But he also underscores crucial revisions made by King James's team of translators, contrasting the memorable "Am I my brother's keeper" with Wycliffe's "Am I the keeper of my brother."

Language lovers and students of the Bible will be equally enthralled by Begat and its engaging look at the intersection of religion and literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199695188
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 09/15/2011
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 881,313
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

David Crystal is the foremost writer and lecturer on the English language, with a worldwide reputation and over 100 books to his credit. He is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and was awarded the OBE for services to the English Language. His books include The Stories of English, The Fight for English, Words, Words, Words, and many more.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Prologue 2
1. In the beginning
2. Let there be light
3. Be fruitful and multiply
4. My brother's keeper?
5. Two by two
6. A coat of many colours
7. Fire and brimstone
8. Begat
9. Thou shalt not
10. Manna, milk, and honey
11. Eyes, teeth, and loins
12. What hath been wrought
13. Bread alone
14. How are the mighty fallen!
15. The skin of one's teeth
16. Out of the mouths of babes
17. Pride goes before a fall
18. Nothing new under the sun
19. Fly in the ointment
20. No peace for the wicked
21. Be horribly afraid
22. Seeing the light
23. Eyes, ears, cheeks
24. Speaking, shouting, wailing, writing
25. Shaking, turning, moving
26. Many and few, first and last
27. Fights, foes, fools, friends
28. Praising famous men
29. Sheep, goats, swine
30. Money, wages, pearls, mites
31. Blessed are the servants
32. Heal thyself
33. Times and seasons
34. Birth, life, and death
35. Countries, kingdoms, Armageddon
36. Building houses, mansions, sepulchres
37. Millstones, crosses, yokes, pricks
38. Sowing seeds
39. Salt and wine
40. The law, judges, thieves, swords
41. Love and charity
42. Peace and patience, wrath, whore

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Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TheoClarke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the material and the analysis are very interesting, this feels too much like an annotated list to be entirely satisfying. Crystal is knowledgable and stylish but even he has trouble creating a pleasing narrative flow as he recounts the prevailing usage of phrases from the the KJV.