SUMER IS ICUMEN IN: Our Ever-Changing Language by Howard Greenfeld

SUMER IS ICUMEN IN: Our Ever-Changing Language

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The first half of this very brief offering (65 well-spaced pages) traces the development of our language from its murky Indo-European beginnings through the Germanic tribes, Vikings, and Normans; Caxton's press, which established London dialect and grammar as the norm; and later borrowings from Greek and Latin. The second part, on how language changes, is disappointingly superficial, consisting largely of examples: food words illustrating their ""melting pot"" origins, old words with new meanings (buxom, zest), common nouns from proper (sadism, sandwich), euphemisms (senior citizen), the surfeit of slang words for intoxicated, and some longstanding slang terms (Shakespeare used beat it, done me wrong, and not so hot) that never became standard. The historical part makes easier reading than an encyclopedia entry but is no more extensive, and the rest is largely lightweight padding.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1978
Publisher: Crown