A well-researched, convincing account of how our language has welcomed foreign words—but not always their native speakers.



A scholarly account of the numerous French words that have entered and remained in the English language.

Scholar, a professor of French who has written a book on Montaigne, among other subjects, returns with a brief, focused account of some specific changes and adaptations in English. For the author, a key text is Marriage Á-la-Mode, a 1673 play by John Dryden that contains numerous instances of characters employing French and effectively “satirized French with a forked tongue.” Although Scholar acknowledges that the Norman invasion of 1066 certainly began the transformation process, it is Dryden’s play, he believes, that accelerated the move and made many aware of the various social, cultural, and class meanings of French-into-English words. Throughout, the author notes the ambivalence of English speakers about French. Does employing French indicate class, cultivation, and education? Or elitism? All of the above, argues Scholar, who also shows how the transference has affected art, music, and literature (he includes some reproductions of relevant paintings, such as Walter Richard Sickert’s Ennui (1917-1918). The latter half of the text illustrates the general pattern by examining three specific words: “naïveté,” “ennui,” and “caprice.” Scholar explores the history of each word—sometimes displaying a denseness and academic specificity that will dissuade general readers—and describes how it first arrived and how writers and other artists have employed it, from earlier centuries to the present. For the most part, the author alludes to writers and other artists whose names are generally well known, including John Le Carré, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, and Richard Strauss. But others will ring bells only with the cognoscenti. The author ends his volume with some reflections on emigration and immigration, discussing Donald Trump, Brexit, and the current hostile and divided political climate.

A well-researched, convincing account of how our language has welcomed foreign words—but not always their native speakers.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-691-19032-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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