Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

Werd, err, word nerds rejoice! David Crystal's Spell It Out is an accessible, engaging romp through the labyrinthine world of spelling. Why do we spell words certain ways? Why is there a there, a their and a they're? Why are there so many rules to spelling if so many rules are oftentimes broken? Crystal (The Story of English in 100 Words) answers these questions, and many more, in 37 bite-sized chapters that are a logophile's delight.

Running through Latin to French to Greek to Semitic in tracing the history of the English language, Crystal puts forth an interesting history of the delicate intricacies of letters and words. He even looks at the future, considering how Tweets and the Internet as a whole might affect our spelling. "Prophets of doom have suggested that, because the Internet motivates so much spelling variation," he writes, "a standard English spelling system has no future. They are wrong.... The Internet is the best guarantor we have of maintaining a standard spelling system, in all languages, because it relies for its efficacy on the accurate orthographic representation of words."

From the future of spelling on the World Wide Web to the world of the Etruscans who helped develop the rudiments of letters we now use, Crystal's Spell It Out is a delight. Shedding light on everything from Latin prefixes to Geoffrey Chaucer wishing disease upon a scribe for not copying his words correctly, Crystal's book will undoubtedly cast a spell on readers who love the English language. --Jonathan Shipley, freelance writer

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