The Stories of English (David Crystal)

David Crystal’s The Stories of English is a fascinating book, shot through with honest passion for the language (also on display in his excellent Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language). It’s a long book, and closely typeset on long lines, so I wouldn’t recommend buying the paperback unless your eyesight is very good.

The book tells the unexpurgated story of English, including its dialects and non-standard forms. Mr Crystal, rightly, puts just as much weight on ‘dialect’ English as on the RP/standard forms, and the book tells a story of a lively language that the 18th century tried to put in corsets. But now with the rise of the Internet & othr cmnctn techs, the lngge is brkng 3 agn.

The story of how English was standardised was a surprise to traditionally-educated me. Mr Crystal’s case that rules don’t really matter, and only comprehension does is very persusive, and I for one pledge to not even slightly worry about split infinitives any more.