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Publisher's Summary

In this unique new history of the world’s most ubiquitous language, linguistics expert David Crystal draws on words that best illustrate the huge variety of sources, influences, and events that have helped to shape our vernacular since the first definitively English word was written down in the fifth century (‘roe’, in case you are wondering).

Featuring Latinate and Celtic words, weasel words and nonce-words, ancient words (‘loaf’) to cutting edge (‘twittersphere’) and spanning the indispensable words that shape our tongue (‘and’, ‘what’) to the more fanciful (‘fopdoodle’), Crystal takes us along the winding byways of language via the rude, the obscure and the downright surprising.

©2011 David Crystal (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Here's a delight you shouldn't miss. True, not everyone has an abiding interest in linguistics, but David Crystal's method of focusing on single and representative words produces fascinating results, and surprising breadth. Words like 'able,' 'and,' 'ain't,' 'alphabet,' and 'dude' have their individual history, illustrate some historic feature of language, and mark the development of English from long ago to the present day. As narrator, Crystal sounds like he learned his English in the 1700s, and his distinctly British pronunciation of words like 'controversy' stands out in a treatise on language and, at the same time, highlights his underlying themes--that language is arbitrary, whimsical, oftentimes nonsensical, and always changing. Ideal for a commute or a daily round, Crystal's 100 brisk chapters are uniquely suited for audiobook consumption, rich in pith and humor, and a total treat however consumed." (Audiofile Magazine)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Stepping Stones

What a fascinating walk along a path of 100 words that illustrate the history of the English language.
The author and narrator, David Crystal takes us on a journey, pausing at each stone to look about or pick a few wildflowers within reach to illustrate or elaborate upon the key word.
I was pleased that David read his own work, he sounded just as I imagined he would, a pleasant blend of scholarliness and levity.
I'll listen to it again as there are so many interesting anecdotes that I cannot even now recall.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Margaret
  • 10-18-11

Sparkling

This is a book written and read by a man with an obvious and very endearing love for his subject. Unlike sime authors' readings of their own books, this is a real delight. Giggling, nay, laughing out loud on the Tube, I have now renewed my acquaintance with some words and been neatly introduced to others. I loved this and would highly recommend it, finding not only, as the author says, that I can see the trees but the woods as well. I think he has achieved his object.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 06-30-13

Surprisingly fun!

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed this book, which surprised me. I often get bored quite quickly with non-fiction, finding it harder to stick with than fiction. This book doesn't allow the material to get dry though. It is the sort of book you can dip in and out of because the chapters are quite short and focus on one word at a time. David Crystal's narrative is almost conversational in tone, he just wants to tell you some interesting and fun things about each word, and then moves on. He throws in a few rude words, and a few modern hybrid words, like chillax, to show some of the interesting and strange things that words can do, but my favourite was bone-house. This book probably has nothing new to tell linguists, but is still told in such an enjoyable way that perhaps even those who have nothing to learn from this book could still find enjoyment from hearing David Crystal talk about them.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mr David Newton
  • 12-25-12

Interesting - most of the time

David Crystal is without doubt THE expert in the English language and his academic work in the field provides the main textbooks for many linguistic courses.

His academic confidence means that he has the ability to read his own work well and in an interested manner. His delight in the language means that he is open to words entering the language from many places and celebrates those which arise form slang or text with the same delight, or perhaps even more pleasure, as those which came from Latin or Germanic sources. He even seems to take pleasure in the variety of common spellings, as if taking a gentle swipe at the purists who claim theirs is the 'correct' use.

The only hesitation I have is that the book is a list. He takes words in chronological order of their entry into the language and I am sure that works well in the written form. But in audio there is a problem for me. I find that my attention can drift and if that happens when he is moving from one word to another I can get a little lost.

Although I am an enthusiastic audio listener this is perhaps better on the eye than the ear.



4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Iain
  • 04-13-13

Expert English

Professor David Crystal is, without doubt, the English language expert. This tour of 100 English words is at times illuminating, humorous and extraordinarily well informed. He takes the listener through a semi-chronological tour of words to illustrate various linguistic points of interest. Where this audiobook excels is in the fact that it is in the authors own voice, helping to bridge the awkward 'how is this word pronounced' gap experienced in written texts. An excellent and fun book and highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Zen Kite
  • 03-05-15

The Story of English

An excellent book, full of warmth, wit and erudition. David Crystal is a master of his subject and a great narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Radioactive tea
  • 02-09-15

David Crystal is the best

A brilliant book, wonderfully executed. I love his authoritative, but never patronising, tone. it made me smile every time I got into the car and excitedly told friends and family some of the words I learned about.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Wendy
  • 04-07-13

Entertaining and informative Etymological jaunt

I am fascinated by the history of English, but with so many great books out there I approached this one cautiously. It was a very pleasant surprise. Well narrated by the author (always a plus) it is an entertaining ramble through the language broken into manageable bite-sized chunks based on individual words. I enjoyed it a lot.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Peter Chistopher Franck
  • 03-26-12

Brilliant!

For me as exciting as Tolstoi, Le Carré and Chandler.
Listen to this - and learn.
Add to it "Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pyjamas" (Judy Parkinson) and you are in for a lot of free dinners.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • lalasailing1940
  • 07-10-18

Excellent

A very enjoyable and informative book. To be kept and reread! (Well, listened to! ) Thank you

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  • Mary Carnegie
  • 08-12-16

Entertaining, surprising, never pedantic.

David Crystal knows LOTS about language but never makes a meal of his erudition. He's never dogmatic, prescriptive or snooty about words and how they're used.
Human language is so amazing, infinite, inventive, playful, evolutionary and revolutionary - one of the most wonderful things on Earth - and David Crystal reminds us of some of its fun in this collection of words, old and new.