Robert McCrum

Most of the mainline reviews of Robert McCrum’s Globish – of which there have been so many so fast that I am in awe of his publicity people -- are missing what is fundamentally wrong with the book. Herewith one linguist’s take on this peculiar book, within which all evaluators seem to perceive a certain fuzziness, but few are catching that it is based on an outright error of reasoning and analysis – as well as an infelicitous volume of downright flubs. McCrum starts with the well-known fact that English is now the world’s de facto universal language.

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The Moral Baby

Wodehouse: A Life By Robert McCrum (W.W. Norton, 530 pp., $27.95) I.Deliberately unserious writers are very rare in literature; even most children's books are dark with agenda. Sheer play is much rarer than great seriousness, for nonsense demands from most of us an unlearning of adult lessons, a return to childhood--which anyway, being a return, lacks childhood's innocent originality. P.G. Wodehouse, who was always described by those who knew him best as an arrested schoolboy, must be the gentlest, most playful comedian in the English novel.

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Talk Talk

A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume 4; Se-Z edited by R, W, Burchfield (Oxford University Press, 1,454 pp., $150) The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil (Elisabeth Sifton Books/Viking, 384 pp.,$24,95) American Talk: The Words and Ways of American Dialects by Robert Hendrlckson (Viking, 231 pp., $18.95) Take My Word For It by William Safire (Times Books, 357 pp., $22,50) A Word or Two Before You Go ..

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