We use it every day but do we really give much thought as to where it came from? I’m talking about the English language. How did it even start? How did it evolve to what it is today? And why doesn’t it have a rude history? That’s right, why isn’t the story of the English language a rude one?
Tom Howell has always wondered why the story of the English language doesn’t have a hero and why it isn’t rude enough. And like any lexicographer would do, he set out to fix that. The result is his new book, The Rude Story of English. Beginning in 449 AD, he introduces us to Hengest, the legendary Germanic warrior who tripped and fell onto the shores of Britain, the man who will take us on the journey through the development of the English language and to what it has become today. Spoken all over the world, English is a rich and diverse language and actually very rude.
Travel the world, from England to Australia, from Newfoundland to Jamaica, and beyond, and you’ll find that we all share a linguistic history. This is a subject that has always fascinated me. I grew up here in Canada to a mother whose family spoke a very Canadian English and a father for whom English is a second language. I’m married to a man who grew up in Jamaica, speaking both Patois and the Queen's English. It’s safe to say that the way we speak the same language is a little different. But I’ve never thought about the history of the language and how it developed over time.
This was the perfect book to teach me about it. When you think “history of the English language” you probably prepare yourself for a boring, textbook type read but this book is far from it. Howell writes with such humour that you find yourself immersed and interested the whole way through. The illustrations by Gabe Forman are an excellent addition.
Depending on who you talk to (or read) Hengest may or may not have existed. In this book, he exists for centuries, there for and often responsible for every twist and turn the English language takes. And as we journey with Hengest and learn about the early Anglo’s penchant for things shaped like genitalia and riddles about genitalia, we see just how rude and funny the language can be.
Okay, so this may not be an *exact* history of the language and you probably don’t want to be referencing much of it for your school paper. But as a former editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Howell is more than qualified to take you on a journey that helps you become more acquainted with the intricacies and funnier parts of the language you speak every day. Who knew our ancestors were so sexed up?
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. The opinions expressed above are my own.