Thursday, August 19, 2010

By Hook or by Crook: A Journey in Search of English by David Crystal

A linguistic travelogue. David Crystal muses about accents and dialects as well as the origins of place names, catch-phrases and idioms while meandering down the sideroads of Wales and western England. Where did the expressions 'by hook or by crook' and 'the living daylights' come from? Crystal ranges farther afield when he discusses streets that have nicknames (as opposed to merely shortened versions of their names). He even explains the origin of the word 'nickname.' (In Old English, eke meant 'also.' Pronunciation of the expression an eke name - your 'other' name - changed over time, with the n of an transferring to the beginning of eke to make neke, and then the spelling changed to make the modern word.) I'm a total language nerd, so I enjoyed this book. You gotta love a guy who gets excited about orthographic innovations, such as the use of middle capital letters within a proper name - CompuServe; eBay and BiblioCommons.

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