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Thankfully, what could have been a dry and overly-academic narrative is transformed by his style into a journey of discovery. We are at Hitchings' side as he almost literally revels in the discovery of the ways in which military and cultural invasions transformed English (not new or surprising material) to what was, to me, the fresher and more intriguing topic of how English explorers "repatriated" words from other languages they encountered, from the Americas to Japan. That thematic approach avoids another potential trap: the epoch by epoch survey, which also could have transformed this into a tedious read that none but scholars and the most dutiful or stubborn of readers would have completed. Instead, anyone reading this spend hours engrossed in an absorbing book -- and will never look at words and how he or she uses them in the same way again. Hitchings may not write for a scholarly audience, but this is far and away the best book I have read for the curious layperson on the topic, especially as our language is again being transformed by new technology (not just the vocabulary, but usage & popularity) in the same ways that it was reshaped by the advent of the printing press.The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English Overview
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