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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 August 2008
Has a comprehensive bibliography for future research, and two sets of indicies so can be used as a text book. However you can also read it as a story book. I was surprised just how fascinating the history and development of the concepts behind each of the words described turned out to be.
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on 23 February 2009
Wow! Chanced across this book and thought it sounded good, but it is far better than that! If you have ever wondered about the origin of words in English, want to know which words come to us via where (and often when and why!) or what a calque is (makes you think twice about your mortgage!) then consider this book: it's word trivia galore! Very readable, easy to reference, highly enjoyable and absolutely fascinating.
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on 18 February 2009
Much more than words - a tour round English history through the medium of our language. Very readable and disappointing to finish!
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2015
Getting to know you
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you
Getting to know what to say
- The King And I - Getting To Know You Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Did you ever wonder how English became English? There are a plethora of books on the word origins, some amusing, and some in depth. But no other book quite as well targets how it got from there to here as Henry Hitchings' descriptions.

Occasionally he appears to be wordy but don't let this fool you. Everything he says leads to a point. And it's the point of why you're reading this book.

One book cannot hold everything. However the author makes a good stab at it here. Just going through the bibliographies and indexes will take quite some time.

I've read books on euphemisms and anachronisms and found them interesting. Yet I never realized how interesting just common words could be. Knowing a little bit of their origin I do strive to say things like children instead of kids. And always wonder what happened to kine?

In any event will find a lot of information packed into a small book. You will wonder how you live so long without knowing this information.

This book is a keeper for your library and you will want to reference it periodically.
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on 6 March 2010
The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English (Paperback) give a brilliant account of hoe and when the various words that were introduced into the English language and also how that langusge changed and adopted including non-Englisg words into every day use. It is surprising thh amount of words that were introduced. This is a good book for the study ot the development of the Englaih language
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on 8 February 2009
This is a fantastic book. Full of information about the English language. Written in such a way you don't want to put it down.
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on 4 March 2012
This lists where words where derived from but does not really explain the transformations. It would have been better going into more depth on fewer words and tracing their alterations.
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on 5 September 2013
I have an interest in languages, and thought that this would be a very interesting book to read. Unfortunately, the book tends to wander, there is no real structure to the lay out of the book, there is no clear beginning, middle and end. There are several instances where he lists off words just like that, so called loan words in English, and I am not afraid to say I never use them even though it is claimed that
these are in everyday use. Occasionally there are glimpses of interesting passages but these are interrupted by more word lists.

I would not even called the book academic, even though there are lots of references. It is not at all comprehensive, as he is very biased, he mentions English in the USA and Canada, but fails to cite the influence of Irish (Gaelic) on English, and there are several examples, eg clann, he even gets the word "Uisce Beatha" completely wrong (from which whiskey/whisky come from). What about smithereens, smashing, galore, esker etc etc etc? What about Hiberno English?

Finally may I say that this book is hard going.... I forced myself to read it right to the end just to see if any references were made to Irish Gaelic.

Don't bother!
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on 15 January 2011
Nice tome for those interested in English Philology. Delivery was protracted due to Xmas rush and weather, but got to me before Christmas.
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on 9 January 2012
I bought this book as a Christmas present for my Dad, and he loves it. I would recommend it to others.
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