An omnibus tour of English--""the greatest language on earth""--which scans major features, reviews minor skirmishes, and includes assorted diversions for the gamesmen among us. Shipley provides a compact history of the language, tracing successive influences, identifying common sources of new words, and nimbly unraveling the involuted evidence of current linguistic quests. He enjoys the illogicalities (problematic plurals, spelling irregularities), thrives on the playful (anagrams, palindromes, acrostics, puns), and steadfastly preserves distinctions (""no two words function exactly alike"") which casual writers disregard. No euphemist, he sideswipes the UN (futile), aims more directly at Joyce and Freudianisms, and showers contempt on Godot and the absurdists; like Adams (above), albeit less insistently, he laments modern trends--regrettably, there's no punishment for verbicide. A bright, fluent conjugation of clear statement and selective example.