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By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey in Search of English Paperback – 1 Apr 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (1 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007235577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007235575
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 846,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

‘Every page of Crystal’s book contains some linguistic curiosity or flight of fancy. He should go walkie-talkie more often. Another 100 books of this kind would not be too many.’ Financial Times

‘[An] excellent, discursive new book [by] one of England's greatest living language commentators…Crystal's accessible and lively style belies his academic rigour.’ The New Statesman

'[Crystal] is more than just the Dr Johnson of our age, a linguistic expert who never takes a day off from considering language in all its aspects, and even hears sheep bleat in a Welsh accent.' The Sunday Herald

'”By Hook or By Crook” is autobiographical-whimsical-quizzical-oddsandendsical.' Times Higher Education Supplement

'The book reads like a donnish Bill Bryson, a Bryson possessed with a maniacal passion for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language… This is stream of consciousness linguistics, a pied-piper-led dance down the byways of language…a compelling guide.' Independent

'splendidly discursive…This is a man so in love with words that he will happily hold up fellow motorists, and miss crucial turnings.' Independent on Sunday

About the Author

David Crystal has published over 90 books on the subject of the English language, including two encyclopaedias, 'The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language' and The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language'. His book, 'The Stories of English' (2004) was a bestseller for Penguin. He has lectured in linguistics all his life, first at Bangor, then at Reading and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales. He has also been a consultant, contributor or presenter on many radio and TV series (including 'The Story of English').

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David Crystal has written an entertaining travelogue of selected part of (mostly) England and Wales. The reader accompanies Crystal as he meanders around various small towns (Haye on Wye, Stratford on Avon etc), finding many interesting places along the way and recounting many tales and anecdotes about place names and other linguistic curiosities. Crystal makes an amusing travel companion, perhaps with similarities to Michael Palin or Richard Bryson, and one gets the impression of a man with a fund of stories who would be a useful talking guide-book on any possible journey around Britain.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, it is difficult to see what happened to the Sebald inspiration claimed by the author. Sebald writes meditative, reflective books which lead the reader into contemplating the big issues of life and death - the actual locations and histories he recounts being almost incidental to the inner state of mind aroused along the way. This book on the other hand is an energetic tour through linguistic highways and byways, with fact after fact piled on in an almost random fashion, making it difficult to see the whole picture. By Hook or By Crook is definitely an entertaining read, but as with so many books about the origins of the English (or any other) language, unless one has a formidable memory for random facts, little of it will remain when the final page has been read. While the derivation of "Lichfield" for example is undoubtedly of passing interest, a week after reading the book I can recall little of it, nor can I quite see why I needed to know in the first place.

I read this book on holiday and it was perfect for picking up and putting down again a few minutes later. It does not demand too much in the way of concentration and would make an excellent gift for anyone with an interest in words and their meanings.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a number of David Crystal's more scholarly books so this one was a surprise. It's a sort of stream of consciousness book by a person on a trip round eastern England and Wales who loves language and its interaction with the history of a country. It's full of interesting facts and observations and is a very enjoyable read. No theme is explored in any depth as the writer's divergent mind flits from one topic to another as his memories and knowledge are triggered by the places and people he visits. It's a book that can be read in snippets as the chapters are largely self-contained.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book which I really enjoyed, yet it's difficult to convey in a review how that is. It comes across as a set of thoughts that Crystal has as he sees things which trigger linguistic memories and interest. Explaining it - it sounds like a random set of thoughts, and in some ways it is, yet I love it and the style really works.

Be warned: I suspect some readers outside of the UK, and without much knowledge of or a willingness to learn about the UK, could give it fewer stars.

This is the first of Crystal's books I've read - and I intend to purchase more.
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Format: Paperback
Which in part, to be sad, I am. Some of the reading was as dull as village ditch water-not a tadpole in sight. Big sighs, put the bloody thing down and grumped a bit. But went back to read more. Cos he's yon clever bugger! I am not sure I would have called it a journey like, more an amble and if you treat it as such, rewarding it is. Plenty of ingestion required like the queer bithplaces of common words and such. A small criticism-the journey takes place in a small section of England. Mr Crystal, be a man and trek the length and breadth of the land and plumb why English is such a hybrid of contradictions and more cuckoo and crow than nightingale or hard working wren. A'm still getting over his son's Shakespeare on bloody toast. Wreaks haddock on the marmalade and mushy peas. Ah well, better go off feed pidgins and chook stottie at ta spuggies. Alreet clever cloggs I am in Australia-hurl vegemite museli at yon cockies.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with much said in the other highly positive readers' comments, although what I would add is that this is one of those all too rare books that you can give to people who are seemingly impossible to please.
Out of desperation I tried it on a relative who always finds something to grumble about when given a gift.
On this occasion he enjoyed the book immensely, telling me often afterward what a terrific read it was (although he did complain that there are not more books like it).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another gem by David Crystal - this time he looks at the different dialect forms that can be found within a very short geographical area. As ever, very readable and filled with humour.
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