Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling Paperback – 6 Sep 2012
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Praise for The Story of English in 100 Words:
'Crystal's book is full of distractions and delights(Daily Express)
Delicious revelations ... Crystal does an excellent job (Independent on Sunday)
One of [Crystal's] best ... it builds gradually into a kind of linguistic tapestry, packed with abstruse information, wonderfully readable (Spectator)
Entertaining ... Crystal's many examples show that the development of English spelling is as random, unsystematic and anomalous as the British constitution. English spelling is as rich a mixture of anachronism, privilege and fashion as the House of Lords (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times)
A prolific author...he can write with authority on trends in the spelling of rhubarb and indeed on the history of the spelling of any tricky word you care to mention. For him, the patterns are clear... highly entertaining. (Observer)
Spectacular (Readers Digest)
A prolific author...highly entertaining to read (Nicholas Clee Observer)
This masterly book is a deft guide with a light touch (Harry Mount TLS)
A spelling book with a difference (Yorkshire Gazette and Herald)
Crystal's splendid book, the latest in a long line by this prolific language truffler, proceeds chronologically, deep in learning and characteristically light on its feet. (Marcus Berkmann Daily Mail)
A Must Read...An entertaining and fascinating study of how English spelling became so wildly inconsistent. (Sunday Times)
The chaotic yet enthralling story of British spelling through the ages (Bookseller)
Wonderfully erudite but entertaining (Saga)
An enlightening tour of English spelling that untangles 'stationery' from 'stationary' - and explains why the 'i before e except after c' rule is so misleadingSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
you're expressing rather than how you're expressing it. Once you start reading this book it really is hard to put down. Behind the (odd and quirky) spelling of a lot of words the author gives fascinating and logical reasons why certain words are spelt the way they are. Not only the spelling but also the pronunciation. If you are at all interested in the English language buy it.
I have only one criticism and one 'niggle'. The criticism is that I was always waiting in vain for a chapter on the lack of diacritics, i.e. accents, in English. In Portuguese, whenever the stress is anywhere other than on the penultimate syllable, this is indicated by an accent. Hence 'cágado' (tortoise)is very different from 'cagado' (taboo: 'covered in excrement'). Meanwhile, students of English are left unaided to cope not only with the vagaries of English spelling but its vagaries of stress, e.g. 'famous/infamous'; 'advert/
advertisement'. In a book purporting to deal with the oddities of English written forms, this seems to me to be an omission. One may argue that diacritics do not actually affect spelling. But this to ignore the fact that the purpose of writing is essentially (with the possible exception of essay-writing for exams) to communicate something that will be read, either aloud or silently. Either way, in English a mystifying arrangement of letters is compounded by a total lack of information regarding syllable stress.
Oh yes, my niggle. I take issue with Prof.Read more ›
"Spell It Out" is more than a reader-friendly, comprehensible and comprehensive story of the history and evolvement of English spelling - Professor Crystal gives practical advice in Teaching Appendix as well as throughout the book. Memorising random lists of difficult words is not the solution as practice over ages has shown. The author believes and demonstrates that we need a linguistic take on getting to know the system which is not as bizarre and unassailable as popularly condemned; explaining is key, so is acquainting children with basic etymology at an early age. Professor Crystal is brilliantly convincing: "The story of the English writing system is so intriguing, and the histories behind individual words so fascinating, that anyone who dares to treat spelling as an adventure will find the journey rewarding."
In "Spell It Out", the many shades of English spelling are accurately examined, exposed, and entertainingly explained. And who but David Crystal could make English spelling more appealing and seductive a subject than "the office between the sheets"!
How many stars for this book? As many as there are spelling rules (and exceptions) in English!
For my full review see HuffPost UK Culture blog.
"These 'natives' of the Internet have to learn to cope with an online orthographic diversity that is much greater than anything older people ever experienced on the printed page. Faced with a bewildering array of orthographic choices, they have to develop confidence to make the right decisions for the written tasks they need to complete".
The book finishes with two excellent appendices which offer some good advice to teachers of English; learning to spell is helped by putting words in context, by frequency of occurrence and within 'word-families'. Finally the author suggests giving each child a thesaurus and a dictionary- great idea.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very readable and informative volume that illuminates a complex issue.Published 2 months ago by Steve
I love the author's easy to understand explanations and his obvious life long enthusiasm for the evolution of the English language. Well worth the read and is decent on Kindle too.Published 9 months ago by Middle aged spread
Buy it, read it, if you have any interest in our language. Somewhat dry, but altogether fascinating.Published 11 months ago by Timothy Hammond