Damp Squid: The English language laid bare

by Jeremy Butterfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): 176 pp, £5.92 (hbk), ISBN 978 0 19 923906 1.

Reviewed by Michèle Clarke

Buy this book

The SfEP review of books seems to have been obsessed by the English language recently (NB: the recent multiple review of various 'wordy'-type books). This new one is about the underlying sea-change that the world of dictionary-making has undergone.

It includes discussions on the numbers of words we use, where they come from, spelling, meanings, groupings, idiomatic phrases, grammar, and 'style wars' (usages people hate). An interesting book, it is different from/to/than the usual books on new words, odd words, old words, whatever, as it discusses problems that underlie our whole usage of English.

Reviews of other literary criticism and books on language All book reviews