Chockablock with facts, figures and interesting tidbits, this is no stodgy history lesson.
The Washington Post
Although some 6,500 languages are now spoken around the world, there are more non-native speakers of English than native speakers. Dunton-Downer surveys the evolution English—Earth's common language—by examining more than 30 words that are now part of the global lexicon (including cookie, deluxe, disco, safari, shampoo, relax, robot, and taxi) and debating the sources and origins of such words as O.K. and jazz. She traces the usage of "stop" from 1920s telegrams and the octagonal red sign adopted throughout the U.S. in 1954 to 1978 when non-English speakers were introduced to "America's red geometry" by the Vienna Convention of Road Signs and Signals, adding a Motown connection with the palm-out signal used when performing "Stop! In the Name of Love." Similar pop culture references punctuate these scholarly essays that range from Indo-European linguistics to Internet acronyms. Dunton-Downer's probing, illuminating histories of words are educational, entertaining, and a delight to read. (Oct.)
“Dunton-Downer is persuasive and, better yet, entertaining. She’s an affable and learned guide to the history and future of Global English. Her skillful, humorous and thoroughly absorbing book shows us that the English language has always been polyglot, and it continues to evolve into a mirror for our global community.” —BookPage
"Chockablock with facts, figures and interesting tidbits, this is no stodgy history lesson. " —The Washington Post
“[Dunton-Downer] explores how the spread of English has led the language, and its speakers, down some fascinating paths—with intense implications for English’s future. . . Strongly recommended.” —Library Journal
"A fascinating intellectual romp through the past and the future of the English language. Like the best cocktail party conversation you’ve ever had, this book is smart, engaging, unpredictable, and leaves you wanting more. Leslie Dunton-Downer has created a masterpiece. If you like words, you will love this book." —Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
"An ardent, spirited look at what is increasingly considered the world’s language." —Kirkus Reviews
“You don’t have to be a ‘word person’ to find Leslie Dunton-Downer’s book engaging, illuminating, and even exciting. With ingenious analogies and a healthy dose of humor, she gives us a timely look at the English language—past, present, and future—that’s full of surprising insights and unexpected fun.” —Kitty Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
“With fresh wit and original research, The English Is Coming! beckons the reader on a global safari of English. Both casual tourists and experienced hands will delight in stories that surprise on almost every page. Tracking expertly between the past and the present, between linguistic details and global history, Leslie Dunton-Downer ends with a tantalizing glimpse into that most elusive quarry—the future of English.” —Daniel Donoghue, John P. Marquand Professor of English, Harvard University and author of Lady Godiva: A Literary History of the Legend
Contrary to those who see the global spread of English as a Bad Thing, Dunton-Downer (coauthor, with Alan Riding, Essential Shakespeare Handbook) sees magic in it. Noting that there are now more English speakers in China than in the United States, she explores how the spread of English has led the language, and its speakers, down some fascinating paths—with intense implications for English's future. She reminds us that English has always been responsive to the world around it, absorbing non-English words and transforming itself. Shampoo came from the Hindi for massage; robot from a Czech word for "drudgery." In short, the global presence of English should not be seen simplistically: future English will very likely reflect its use by an overwhelming number of nonnative speakers. Read her final chapter on what the future holds! Most of us these days don't know Anglo-Saxon; will 22nd-century English speakers know our language? Strongly recommended.
An exploration of the English language via the study of specific words that have "gone global."
As a result of English's increasing worldwide dominance, there has been a recent surge of interest in its historical transformations and global impact. Dunton-Downer (co-author: Essential Shakespeare Handbook, 2004) contributes to this growing genre with a detailed investigation of the origins and global reach of more than 30 English words. For example, readers might be surprised to discover that the word bikini has a somewhat dubious lexical history connected to atom-bomb testing, while the ancestry of disco can be traced to an Indo-European word meaning "to pronounce solemnly." In addition to etymologies, the author looks at the story and "personality" that each word acquires as it travels through time and often across continents. In the discussion of the word robot, for example, readers will learn about the Czech brothers who not only coined the word but were also strong opponents of Nazi Germany. Other words or phrases surveyed by Dunton-Downer include jazz, cocktail, blog, taxi, penthouse and safari. The author also delves into the English language's turbulent past and myriad influences, such as the Norman Conquest and the subsequent influx of French words in the English lexicon. Although she briefly addresses the possible negative consequences of English's increasing ubiquity, including the potential for more widespread language extinction, the author generally sidesteps the ongoing linguistic-political debates in favor of a more exuberant and humorous celebration of this particular language's ascendancy and mutability. In the final chapter, Dunton-Downer makes predictions about how the language could spread and change in the future, including the acquisition of more words from Chinese and Arabic.
An ardent, spirited look at what is increasingly considered the world's language.