Item description for The Story of English: Third Revised Edition by Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil & William Cran...
Overview Thoroughly revised and updated, the new edition of the international bestseller tells the anecdotal history of the English language from its obscure Anglo-Saxon origins to its present status as the world's most prominent, expressive, and fast-growing international language. Original.
Now revised, The Story of English is the first book to tell the whole story of the English language. Originally paired with a major PBS miniseries, this book presents a stimulating and comprehensive record of spoken and written English--from its Anglo-Saxon origins some two thousand years ago to the present day, when English is the dominant language of commerce and culture with more than one billion English speakers around the world. From Cockney, Scouse, and Scots to Gulla, Singlish, Franglais, and the latest African American slang, this sweeping history of the English language is the essential introduction for anyone who wants to know more about our common tongue.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Story of English: Third Revised Edition by Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil & William Cran has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Wilson Senior High Core Col - 01/01/2011 page 239
Wilson Senior High Core Col - 01/01/2004 page 27
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 234
Wilson Senior High Core Col - 01/01/2007 page 190
Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 331
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Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.9" Width: 5.36" Height: 1.08" Weight: 0.9 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2003
Publisher Penguin (Non-Classics)
ISBN 0142002313 ISBN13 9780142002315
Availability 0 units.
More About Robert McCrum, Robert MacNeil & William Cran
Robert McCrum is the author of six novels and My Year Off: Rediscovering Life After a Stroke. Now literary editor of The Observer, he is working on an authorized biography of P. G. Wodehouse.
Robert MacNeil was the co-anchor of PBS's The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. His books include two volumes of memoirs and three novels including his latest, Breaking News.
William Cran is the executive producer for the television series The Story of English.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Story of English: Third Revised Edition?
Content OK, printing bad Mar 8, 2008
This book provided some interesting content not available in a normal history of English, but I would not have bought the book, if I had seen it in a normal bookshop on the street. It has been quite some time since I last bought a mass-market paperback. I did not expect a non-fiction book to be a mass-market paperback: all other such books I bought were trade paperbacks. In fact, the printing is even worse than some of the old cheap fictions I bought, with many pages looking blurred.
After getting this book, I decided I need to make some calculation before I buy a book on-line next time. I will calculate:
grams-per-page = weight-in-ounces * 28.35 / pages
grams-per-page = weight-in-pounds * 454 / pages
I will stop if grams-per-page is less than 1. This book gets 0.82, while most of my books get a number greater than 1.2.
A bit boring. Feb 17, 2008
The authors offer great information about the history of English if you can decipher the long-winded explanations. I would not recommend this book for undergrads unless they have a grasp of historical mapping and civilizations.
Yikes Jan 7, 2008
How can we be expected to take a volume on the English language seriously when its first two sentences (trying to make the point that when we sent a message to the space aliens, we did it in English) read:
"On 5 September 1977, the American spacecraft Voyager One blasted off on its historic mission to Jupiter and beyond. On board, the scientists, who knew that Voyager would one day spin through distant star systems, had installed a recorded greeting from the people of the planet Earth."
The authors' point isn't even valid. The message was in English because an English-speaking country launched Voyager, not because English is a consensus language for extraterrestrial communication. Not only that, the message was not recorded by a native English speaker, but by the Austrian Nazi Kurt Waldheim. Those onboard scientists will have some explaining to do when they meet ET.
Angles and Saxons and Jutes, Oh My! Oct 4, 2007
This book first appeared in 1986 in connection with a British TV series run in the US on PBS. While I've not seen the TV shows, the book at first take reads like a transcript, focussing in on particular individuals to support generalizations, as would a news crew or documentary film maker. The angle of approach is also slightly odd, in the circumscribed manner typical of History Channel TV specials and BBC multi-part documentaries. This means losing both breadth and depth in favor of concentrating on interesting peculiarites or visually arresting features of the subject at hand. In this case it works, because the history of English is too large a topic for either a book or a nine-part TV series. Instead, we get something that tantalizes even as it fails to satisfy.
Although the book lists three authors, it seems primarily to be the work of McCrum. I say that having just finished his bio. of P.G. Wodehouse. Twenty years ago he was editorial director for British publisher Faber and Faber; currently he is an editor at the Observer. Both of these books are maddening to the reader for the same reasons: he glancingly alludes to things no one knows, and then hammers on things everyone does. An example is the Irish "troubles". While it's extremely illuminating to find out that the Scottish highlanders were actually Irish and the lowlanders Scots-Irish, some brief background would help ground the many dropped names of Irish and English politicians, at least for American readers who may have come late into the discussion.
It's also clear that McCrum styles himself as a "liberal", whatever he means by that tag, since he is incapable of referring to "conservatives", equally undefined, except in terms of abuse. In the epilogue of the original edition he also proceeds in the manner of a TV script, redundantly summing up arguments repeatedly made throughout the book. There are also continual quote marks throughout the book, without attribution. However, one can jump to the back, and referencing the page number, find fascinating and extended notes. This again makes the book seem like a transcript.
That said, McCrum is at his best on his home turf of literature. Here he is eager to communicate his own enthusiasm, and to quote his favorite authors. Here he is in his element, and his book clips along. It's possible these parts may bore some readers, but I found them the most engrossing. He vividly portrays the possibilities inherent in English as a new written language, exploited so masterfully by Shakespeare and Chaucer, realized so dazzlingly in the Authorized version of the Bible, AKA The King James. This proved a double- edged sword, however. The dissemination of English meant also its standardization, and its later use as a political tool to destroy non- English languages like Gaelic, as well as regional variants like Cockney. It also began the trend away from Shakespeare, who would spell the same word numerous ways, to standard spelling and grammar. The varied spellings in the US and UK of the same word may be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, who deliberately set out to simplify American English.
What makes this book and series interesting, however, is its underlying thesis of the validity of worldwide English variants, so that there is not so much an English language as Englishes, worldwide varieties stretching from Canada to Australia, Asia to Africa. While standard English, also known as the RP or Received Pronunciation, remains a second language to numerous cultures, and a shop language for much of the world, these customized pidgins and creoles arose naturally from the collision of British English and native languages worldwide. In one interesting speculation, one expert suggests that English is at the point Latin was before it split into the various offshoots of French, Italian, and Spanish. Another speculation is that Spanish and Chinese will rise to dominance and English usage begin to shrink. Whatever the future of the English language, this book is a good introduction to its long and colorful past.
Must Read! May 20, 2007
If you can read English, you need to read this book (or watch the video) at least once in your life.