Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language

Robert McCrum

Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language

What were the beginnings of the English language? Why has American culture spread so successfully and will it continue to do so even as the country’s power apparently wanes? Why are the West Indies no longer any good at cricket? What difference did slavery make to the way we speak English today? Packed with nuggets of information about language, culture, history and power, Robert McCrum traces the way that the English language as twisted and turned in response to the way the world has changed, and how, even as the British Empire is long dead, the language extends its influence further and further in a globalised world. 3.3 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Language & Linguistics
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication May 2010
ISBN 978-0670916405
Publisher Viking
 

What were the beginnings of the English language? Why has American culture spread so successfully and will it continue to do so even as the country’s power apparently wanes? Why are the West Indies no longer any good at cricket? What difference did slavery make to the way we speak English today? Packed with nuggets of information about language, culture, history and power, Robert McCrum traces the way that the English language as twisted and turned in response to the way the world has changed, and how, even as the British Empire is long dead, the language extends its influence further and further in a globalised world.

Read an extract from the book on the New York Times website

Reviews

The Literary Review

Simon Heffer

Robert McCrum’s book is intelligent, thoughtful, and comprehensive. It reminds one how inseparable the history of the language is from the history of the nation. Yet it is also written in the most impeccable standard English style, which would seem to prove there is life in the old, unmutated dog yet.

01/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Economist

The Economist

[An] entertaining book … The author’s knack for finding nuggets enriches what might otherwise seem a rather panoramic take on world history from Tacitus to Twitter.

27/05/2010

Read Full Review


The New York Times

Dwight Garner

The story of the English language is a good one, and Mr. McCrum adroitly touches all the bases, from Old English to Middle English, from Gutenberg to Noah Webster, from Thomas Jefferson to V. S. Naipaul. He charts dozens of wars, revolutions and conquests in between. This material is not dull, and it will be a smart kind of freshman survey course to many. But Mr. McCrum’s heart is in the newer material, his assessment of our contagious, adaptable, populist, subversive language around 2010.

25/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Washington Post

Jonathan Yardley

Perhaps due in part to his having an American wife (the estimable Sarah Lyall of the New York Times), he declines to strike the patronizing attitude toward American English that so many of his fellow Brits reflexively pose. Certainly it is true that on this side of the Atlantic we've done considerable harm to the King's English, especially in advertising and the media, but more important it is true, as McCrum says, that beginning with colonization in the early 17th century "America . . . massively [extended] the range and expression of English."

23/05/2010

Read Full Review


The New Statesman

Soumya Bhattacharya

… erudite, riveting and often very funny … The author goes on an astute and intrepid search that brings together old-fashioned pavement-pounding reporting, scholarly consideration of theory, and a keen sense of the language and its canonical practitioners.

28/06/2010

Read Full Review


The Sunday Telegraph

Jonathan Meades

It could easily have turned into special pleading for what he evidently considers to be fait accompli. But McCrum is out to entertain and inform as well as to preach. His book is excitingly energetic. He leaps with polymathic abandon from one discipline to another: lexicography, history, demography, linguistics, reportage ... Throughout, the volume of detail is startling.

07/06/2010

Read Full Review


The Scotsman

Colin Fraser

[A] fascinating if flawed analysis … Where Globish succeeds is in its good-humoured history of the evolution of the English language … McCrum does not devote enough discussion to the globalising features of Globish. There is little exploration of the literary or cultural potential of this economic English

11/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Financial Times

Henry Hitchings

The range of reference is impressive. Yet while the exposition is authoritative, the balance of the book does not feel quite right. There could usefully have been more about the relationship today between language and globalisation and less about literary history. And it would be have been hugely interesting to get a clearer sense of his view of the road ahead.

27/05/2010

Read Full Review


The New Yorker

Isaac Chotiner

... is English somehow inherently democratic and accommodating to liberty and creativity? Would the Constitution be so liberal a document if the people of Britain had been Spanish or French speakers? McCrum tries to have it both ways ... “Language, it cannot be stressed too strongly, is intrinsically neutral, but it is no contradiction to claim that English—by virtue of its origins and history—is unique.” Yet there is a contradiction here, and it reëmerges later when McCrum writes that English is “on the side of the individual,” and quotes Voltaire’s praise of its “naturalness,” “energy,” and “daring.” If languages are “intrinsically neutral,” then English simply can’t be all these things.

31/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Guardian

Deborah Cameron

This is a much-told tale, and McCrum presents the usual facts in the usual way, a combination of Boy's Own adventure story ... and breathless hagiography … It is "Land of Hope and Glory" recast as a hymn to the language.

05/06/2011

Read Full Review


The Sunday Times

James McConnachie

The range of reference, in short, is half schoolboy textbook and half glossy magazine feature. More frustrating still is the lack of any real engagement with the sinews of language itself ... Most infuriatingly, the concept of “Globish” — an ugly, modish word that derives from the musings of a French IBM executive in the mid-1990s — remains fuzzy. Ultimately, it seems to mean little more than “English used as a lingua franca by self-aggrandising globetrotting business types”. This disappointing, sketchy book should be perfect for them.

23/05/2010

Read Full Review


The Spectator

Christopher Howse

It is well-covered ground, and the journey this time felt like listening to a tedious argument of insidious intent while walking through a wood by night, so that wet twigs slap you in the face unexpectedly.

02/06/2010

Read Full Review


©2013 The Omnivore