The Story of English in 100 Words

  • by David Crystal
  • Narrated by David Crystal
  • 7 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Winner: Audiofile Magazine Earphones Award
In this unique new history of the world’s most ubiquitous language, linguistics expert David Crystal draws on words that best illustrate the huge variety of sources, influences, and events that have helped to shape our vernacular since the first definitively English word was written down in the fifth century (‘roe’, in case you are wondering).
Featuring Latinate and Celtic words, weasel words and nonce-words, ancient words (‘loaf’) to cutting edge (‘twittersphere’) and spanning the indispensable words that shape our tongue (‘and’, ‘what’) to the more fanciful (‘fopdoodle’), Crystal takes us along the winding byways of language via the rude, the obscure and the downright surprising.


What the Critics Say

"Here's a delight you shouldn't miss. True, not everyone has an abiding interest in linguistics, but David Crystal's method of focusing on single and representative words produces fascinating results, and surprising breadth. Words like 'able,' 'and,' 'ain't,' 'alphabet,' and 'dude' have their individual history, illustrate some historic feature of language, and mark the development of English from long ago to the present day. As narrator, Crystal sounds like he learned his English in the 1700s, and his distinctly British pronunciation of words like 'controversy' stands out in a treatise on language and, at the same time, highlights his underlying themes--that language is arbitrary, whimsical, oftentimes nonsensical, and always changing. Ideal for a commute or a daily round, Crystal's 100 brisk chapters are uniquely suited for audiobook consumption, rich in pith and humor, and a total treat however consumed." (Audiofile Magazine)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


This is a book written and read by a man with an obvious and very endearing love for his subject. Unlike sime authors' readings of their own books, this is a real delight. Giggling, nay, laughing out loud on the Tube, I have now renewed my acquaintance with some words and been neatly introduced to others. I loved this and would highly recommend it, finding not only, as the author says, that I can see the trees but the woods as well. I think he has achieved his object.
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- Margaret

Surprisingly fun!

Any additional comments?

I really enjoyed this book, which surprised me. I often get bored quite quickly with non-fiction, finding it harder to stick with than fiction. This book doesn't allow the material to get dry though. It is the sort of book you can dip in and out of because the chapters are quite short and focus on one word at a time. David Crystal's narrative is almost conversational in tone, he just wants to tell you some interesting and fun things about each word, and then moves on. He throws in a few rude words, and a few modern hybrid words, like chillax, to show some of the interesting and strange things that words can do, but my favourite was bone-house. This book probably has nothing new to tell linguists, but is still told in such an enjoyable way that perhaps even those who have nothing to learn from this book could still find enjoyment from hearing David Crystal talk about them.

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- Elizabeth

Book Details

  • Release Date: 14-10-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios