"A person who professes to be a critic in the delicacies of the English language ought to have the Bible at his finger's ends," Lord Macaulay advised Lady Holland in 1831. The world's foremost authority on the English language explains the background to, and legacy of, classic phrases now found on everybody's lips. 320 pages, softcover. Oxford University.
"Let there be light," "A fly in the ointment," "New wine in old bottles," "How are the mighty fallen," "The salt of the earth." All these everyday phrases owe their popularity to the King James Bible. Indeed, it is said that this astonishing Bible has contributed more to the color and grace of the English language than almost any other literary source.
In Begat, best-selling language expert David Crystal offers a stimulating tour of the verbal richness and incredible reach of the King James Bible. How can a work published in 1611 have had such a lasting influence on the language? To answer this question, Crystal offers fascinating discussions of phrases such as "The skin of one's teeth" or "Out of the mouth of babes," tracing how these memorable lines have found independent life in the work of poets, playwrights, novelists, politicians, and journalists, and how more recently they have been taken up with enthusiasm by advertisers, Hollywood, and hip-hop. He shows, for instance, how "Let there be light" has resurfaced as "Let there be lite," the title of a diet cookbook, and "Let there be flight," the title of an article about airport delays. Along the way, Crystal reminds us that the King James Bible owes much to earlier translations, notably those by Wycliffe in the fourteenth century and Tyndale in the sixteenth. But he also underscores crucial revisions made by King James's team of translators, contrasting the memorable "Am I my brother's keeper" with Wycliffe's "Am I the keeper of my brother."
Language lovers and students of the Bible will be equally enthralled by Begat and its engaging look at the intersection of religion and literature.
David Crystal is the foremost writer and lecturer on the English language, with a worldwide reputation and over 100 books to his credit. He is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and was awarded the OBE for services to the English Language. His books include The Stories of English, The Fight for English, Words, Words, Words, and many more.
"Its reach is impressive."--Washington Post
"Crystal does a great job of showing how the King James Bible played an essential role in 'begetting' the English language. Highly recommended."--Studies in Scripture
"Crystal is rightly known as a highly engaging author and one of the few linguists with a true talent for explaining highly abstract subject matter in a way that is comprehensible and enjoyable for a general readership...his approach is systematic and well chronicled."--Linguist List