By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey In Search Of English By David Crystal

A hugely entertaining read. If you love words, etymology, philology, linguistics, phonetics, whatever, you'll love this book. The author travels through Wales and its borderlands with England, to Stratford and Lichfield, to India and to San Francisco, investigating accents, dialects, place names and history. The serendipity of the author's reflections on Shakespeare, Johnson, etc., together with the randomness of his diversions, makes this a fascinating and hugely enjoyable journey. English This book wasn't quite what I was expecting. It was one of the most odd language books I've ever write--Crystal explains in the foreword that it was stream of consciousness linguistics and that's probably the best way to describe it. Ostensibly it covers a few days as he travels through Wales and Warwickshire, ruminating on the accents of those he meets and the place names of the towns he drives through, but he also tells stories about language happenings from as long ago as the 1960s, in places as diverse as San Francisco, India, and Poland. It was interesting enough, I liked learning more about the history behind British place names, and it was occasionally funny, but it hopped around too much for me. He'd go from an accent, to sheep, to The Prisoner, to British history, and back again in about six paragraphs. English By Crystal’s own admission, By Hook or by Crook is a linguistic travelogue. Normally a writer of textbooks and dictionaries—utterly self-contained literary worlds—this book takes a meandering path through the Welsh countryside while observing and commenting on the road signs leading to contemporary standard English.

Welsh itself is enough to make one wonder about maps and ancestry. Take the name of this rail stop between Chester and Holyhead: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch. Crystal takes it apart to show the meaning:

Llan fair pwll gwyn gyll

Church (of) Mary (in the) hollow (of the) white hazel

goger y chwyrn drobwll llan tysilio gogo goch

near the rapid whirlpool (and) church of (St) Tysilio (by the) red cave.

Don’t worry: “Locals never use the long name,” Crystal reports. “Life is too short.”

But linguistic calisthenics and world-record recording is not at all what this book is about. Rather, Crystal’s chapters are like dinner conversations: first, we’re talking about travel, then movies, then an Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, then a shepherd in Welshpool who curls his Rs. Back to movies (who was the model for the Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady?), some discussion of food and wine, the Hay Festival, famously clueless famous authors, and on, and on, deliciously. Of course, all revolving around, or poking at the edges of, English.

Crystal was born in Northern Ireland, but grew up in North Wales and Liverpool. Author or co-author of more than one hundred books, he is known for his enthusiasm for linguistic diversity, and famously wrote in Language Death (Cambridge) that “All the big trouble spots of the world in recent decades have been monolingual countries—Cambodia, Vietnam, Rwanda, Burundi, Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland.” Crystal’s delight in differences is evident on every page of this new book, and both natives and tourists will find the conversation witty and wise. (ForeWord Magazine) English A truly enjoyable read. It wanders and rambles it's way around Wales and wider and roams all around the world. I have never enjoyed looking into the origin of names and accents and speech patterns so much. Almost got me excite about linguistics, and that is because the author David Crystal is obviously brimming with passion for his chosen field.
In the chapter Book-Browser Syndrome he writes In another Francis Edward catalogue, in the travel section, I encountered one of the best travel titles ever. The book was called Because I Haven't Been There Before. It might have been the title of this book too, for most of my stories are the result of travelling down linguistic side-roads, that I've never previously explored.
I found many little bits of information that delighted and struck a chord with my thinking. The portions on accents were fabulous and affirming. Having lived a large portion of my life in places where the remnants of my accent of origin are not the native accent, I am familiar with people feeling they are original in letting you know you sound a bit different. There are times that becomes somewhat of a drag, and it was nice to read along with an expert who revels I every nuance of the use of the English language around the world.
I loved his description of English. English has always been a vacuum-cleaner of a language, sucking in new words from whatever languages it happens to make contact with
I would suggest if you love reading, the sound of words, and the beauty of the countryside, chances are you will enjoy this delightful ramble. English I learned a valuable lesson from this pitiful,unfortunate, and ghastly book: being an esteemed linguist who has studied all varieties of the English language does not equate to being an author who can use it to inform and entertain a general audience. The sentences were choppy and simplistic to the extent that they became a distraction. Either Crystal patronizes his readers and believes they're wholly incapable of reading complex, or even compound, sentences about the varieties of the English language, or he hasn't quite grasped the alchemy of junior high grammar that lies behind subordinate clauses combined with independent clauses and so on...The writing is prosaic and blase´, though the author makes some attempts at humour. Sadly, anyone under 45 would stiffly chuckle out of politeness and embarassment for Crystal. (For example, he can't write the word cunt out of fear of offending readers, instead settling for a lame joke using the town name Scunthorpe. Furthermore, he seems to think it's funny to imagine sheep with welsh bleats or to imagine Shakespeare forgetting his 'get thee to a nunnery' line).

The book was billed as a journey in search of the English language, but there is no real, unifying subject. This is, essentially, a trivia book and probably would have been better if the author had simply given up any pretense of a cogent organizational scheme and simply enumarated the facts he wanted to expound on. Professors digress in the course of lectures, but this entire published work of nonfiction digressions is inexcusable. English


A personal journey through the groves and thickets of the English language, this title combines personal reflections, historical allusions and travel observations to create a mesmerising account of David Crystal's encounters with the language throughout the world. Accessible, highly engaging and in a style similiar to Bill Bryson, 'By Hook or By Crook' will not only appeal to linguists and scholars but to the bigger broad market. By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey In Search Of English

review By Hook Or By Crook: A Journey In Search Of English

Worked for me as a travel narrative, but the linguistics aspect got bogged down in places I'm afraid. English English-speaking world

A lovely book fascinating in it's analysis of English . It's is meandering book full of facts and anecdotes. A pleasure to read. English I have this on my bedside table & am reading it slowly & savoring it. Makes me want to (a) go back to Wales and (b) take a linguistics course. Lovely writer! English This is a delightful book. It's rather like being on a car journey with a witty companion whose erudition enhances the journey (rather than boring you to tears.) Since its publication it's interesting to note how the Birmingham accent is now seen as more dangerous and sexy than stupid thanks to the success of Peaky Blinders. (Such can be the influence of TV in a connected age.) Interesting too is the idea of Euro-English, a soft power which the English nation seems to have decided to jettison in favour of a nostalgic nationalism. Accents are fascinating and because I travel about the UK a lot I find myself picking up odd bits of pronunciation. Though my 'base' accent is a London-Safrican hybrid, I pronounce words like bus and pass with Northern vowels. English DNF at 20%. I thought this should be right up my alley: a travelogue around the UK which is also a look at regional accents and dialect use. But it's just not good. The author seems to just want to throw in random pieces of information in random order - when exploring Wales and its regional accents, he goes through Portmeirion, and tells us about The Prisoner being filmed there, and tells us about communication in bees, and railway bridges. Which would be ok - not the first successful travelogue that meanders around the intellectual landscape - but Crystal isn't funny, like Bill Bryson (which the blurb to this book outrageously compares him to); he isn't a luminous writer like Robert Macfarlane; he isn't heartfelt and empathic, like Peter Ross - and those only happen to be the last three writers of this type I have read. He's not even profound in his own subject. By the time Crystal was earnestly telling me that speakers of other languages in diverse communities mean that the English they speak is different (gosh, really?) I gave up. English