Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Art & Culture: Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language by Robert McCrum

There’s something deliciously industrious about Globish (W.W. Norton), novelist, journalist and premature curmudgeon Robert McCrum’s take on how English took over the world. McCrum sums things up in the prologue:

Globish is a book about a phenomenon so obvious and all-pervading that it is sometimes taken for granted. It begins with the origins, and examines the basic elements of Early English that remain so remarkably functional today. From the founders to the pioneers in just one perilous transatlantic crossing, a voyage that millions completed in hope, degradation or despair: the making of American and African-American English is a vital turning point.

Compared to the density of thought McCrum establishes in the prologue, the book itself is surprisingly lively. Clearly, the author has a passion for his subject. McCrum takes us through the rise to prominence -- nay: dominance -- of the English language in our modern world. In that way, Globish sometimes feels like a biography -- in this case, of a language. At other times it reads like passionately shared history. At all times, though, Globish is a deeply fascinating book. McCrum brings history -- and language -- to vibrant life.

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