Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain

D Crystal and H Crystal, Oxford University Press, 432 pp, 2013. £13.21 (hbk), ISBN 978 0 1996 6812 0

Reviewed by Michèle Clarke

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No person who loves language and visiting places should be without this book – I can't praise it highly enough! Not only is it beautifully presented with lovely photographs throughout (although I could argue with the size of the font being only about 10 pt), on beautiful paper, it is also a really interesting read.

The Crystals have arranged the text in a timeline from the eastern invasion of our island in 449 (Pegwell Bay in Kent) to the Survey of English Usage founded by Professor Randolph Quirk in 1959 at the University College of London. But you can also look at the country as a whole and travel from Trevessa in Cornwall to Dunfermline in Scotland.

It is a fabulous book to read from end to end if you want to follow the timeline of English linguistics, but also a wonderful book to dip into wherever you happen to be on a journey, or, and this is what I did (and I know some of you did too at the Conference this year, when we bought it hot off the press), to browse through first to the places that you happen to know. So my first dips were to Ayot St Lawrence in Herts, where a friend lives and where the house of George Bernard Shaw lies; Lindisfarne (for glossaries and translations), where I haven't been but is on my list of places to visit before I die; St Albans, also in Herts and down the road (possibly where the first female English lexicologist lived); Black Notley (in the middle of Essex, where my grandmother went into hospital, and where John Ray of English proverb fame lived); Grasmere in the Lakes, where I go every year, and of course where Wordsworth wrote his poetry; and finally Hinton St George in Somerset, where some old friends of mine live, so I know the village well, and this is where Henry Fowler lived.

Each chapter has a 'Getting there' section, and there are really good indexes for places, and names and general subjects; there is also a 'Regional grouping' section, so that you can look up areas quickly that might hold a linguistic gem for you to visit. All in all, a lovely book to have, and to read at this time of year.

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