David Crystal has been described (by the Times Higher Education Supplement) as a sort of ‘latter day Dr Johnson’, a populist linguist who has promoted the study of the English language in an academic and broadcasting career that has so far spanned 40 years and nearly 100 books. Now he has written an engaging travel book of more general appeal. Inspired by W. G. Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn’ and by Bill Bryson’s books, he has combined personal reflections, historical allusions and traveller observations to create a mesmerising (and entertaining) narrative account of his encounters with the English language and its speakers throughout the world – from Bangor to Bombay and from Stratford to San Francisco. ‘By Hook or by Crook’ is an attempt to capture the exploratory, seductive, teasing, tantalising nature of language study. As such, it will appeal to the ever-growing market who like to be entertained as well as instructed.
Reviews of By Hook Or By Crook
‘Every page of Crystal’s book contains some linguistic curiosity or flight of fancy. He should go walkie-talkie more often. Another 100 books of this kind would not be too many.’ Financial Times
‘[An] excellent, discursive new book [by] one of England’s greatest living language commentators…Crystal’s accessible and lively style belies his academic rigour.’ The New Statesman
‘[Crystal] is more than just the Dr Johnson of our age, a linguistic expert who never takes a day off from considering language in all its aspects, and even hears sheep bleat in a Welsh accent.’ The Sunday Herald
‘”By Hook or By Crook” is autobiographical-whimsical-quizzical-oddsandendsical.’ Times Higher Education Supplement
‘The book reads like a donnish Bill Bryson, a Bryson possessed with a maniacal passion for the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language… This is stream of consciousness linguistics, a pied-piper-led dance down the byways of language…a compelling guide.’ Independent
‘splendidly discursive…This is a man so in love with words that he will happily hold up fellow motorists, and miss crucial turnings.’ Independent on Sunday