Review – Words in Time and Place

Cover of Words in Time and Place by David CrystalWords in Time and Place, David Crystal
Received to review via Netgalley

I’m surprised at other people actually reading this cover to cover in only a couple of sittings: for me it was much more the type of book that you dip in and out of. A curiosity, but not something deeply riveting. Trivia, I suppose. I did find Crystal’s introduction to the whole book and to each chapter interesting, but the lists and lists of words are rather hard to just sit and read, for me — it’d be like reading a dictionary or thesaurus for fun; it can be interesting to look up particular things, but I don’t know anyone (as far as I’m aware!) who’ll sit and read straight through.

For me, it was particularly interesting because it puts some Old/Middle English expressions in a better context than the simple translating dictionaries ever did, and makes some surprising links between the years and other languages. Though I think if he’d gone to Anglo-Saxon poetry, he’d have found some more fun ones for his section on death: I’m fond of ‘sweordum answefede’ (put to sleep by swords), which caused some consternation in class when we were trying to translate it.

Rating: 3/5

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