Item description for The Secret History of the English Language by M. j. Harper...
In a hugely enjoyable read with gloriously corrosive prose, MJ Harper slashes and burns through the whole of accepted academic thought about the history of the English Language.
According to Harper: 1. English does not derive from Anglo-Saxon. 2. French, Italian, and Spanish did not descend from Latin. 3. Middle English is a wholly imaginary language created by well-meaning by deluded academics.
And that's just the beginning! Part revisionist history, part treatise on the real origins of English, and part impassioned argument against staid academe, The Secret History of the English Language is essential reading for language lovers, history buffs, Anglophiles, and anyone who has ever thought twice about what they've learned in school.
“Best re-writing of history since 1066 and All That.” —Fortean Times
“Fascinating and deeply learned… I read it twice.” —Norman F. Cantor, Professor Emeritus, Medieval Studies, Columbia University
“The most outrageous book I've ever read!” —John Michell, The Oldie
M.J. Harper is an Applied Epistemologist and, with others, operates various websites that deconstruct academic paradigms. He lives in London. This is his first book.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Feb 1, 2008
Publisher Melville House
ISBN 193363331X ISBN13 9781933633312
Reviews - What do customers think about The Secret History of the English Language?
Cantankerously entertaining Jun 15, 2008
You might be a crank if:
1. You have one big idea, such as "What is is what was, unless you've got bone-chilling evidence to the contrary."
2. You view everything through the lens of this big idea (the English have always spoken English, etc.)
3. You insist that everyone else is an idiot if they don't share accept your big idea, and share your world-view.
M.J. Harper is a crank. He is also entertainingly rude, in a British sort of way. Which makes this book funny, and a fast read. It was originally published in the U.K. as The History of Britain Revealed, and others have reviewed the same text here:
The History of Britain Revealed
As one reviewer pointed out, his discussion of evolutionary biology is silly and uninformed. Even though I am not well-versed in the life sciences, I could tell he was missing more than a few key facts when he insisted that Darwinian theory was inherently unfalsifiable.
Unfortunately, that calls into question his other theories, which are neatly summarized in the product description. He completely ignores the role of phonetics, for example, as evidence of language change over time.
And after he reports a third and fourth imaginary conversation with some stuffy, addle-brained academic, I wondered if he hadn't actually had a few of those in real-life. Cranks are prone to such encounters, I would guess.
Still, I got the nagging feeling that some part of his theory might be correct. He does an excellent job at pointing out glaring problems with the received wisdom of English history, and his skewering of national creation myths is a must-read for budding historians.
Harper's book may be the literary equivalent of junk food, but then, we all need to pig out once in a while.