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Tom Howell
The Rude Story of English



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Bill Bryson once wrote that what immediately sets English apart from other languages is the richness of its vocabulary. In The Rude Story of English, Tom Howell, an ex-lexicographer and former dictionary editor, takes on one of his favourite stories: how the English language came to be — and tells it through its rudest, most offensive, simplest parts. While other books concentrate on proper English, slang is the cutting edge of English, and rudeness is slang's most creative point.

From 440 AD, when Hengest, a Germanic warrior, first stepped onto English shores and cursed as his boots filled with seawater, to the present day, curses, insults, and rude words have played as important a role in the story of English as polite ones. Hugely entertaining and informative, The Rude Story of English is part fact, part fiction and reveals that, no matter how uncomfortable or off-putting, there's much to be learned from some of a language's most colourful parts.


Praise for Tom Howell's The Rude Story of English:

"a boisterous new retelling of the emergence of the world's first lingua franca... the book's uproariously silly take on history will hit home with fans of Blackadder and word nerds alike... It's an inventive hybrid of fact and asterisk [...] with plenty of tidbits that make it a worthy read." —Globe and Mail

"From the opening pages of The Rude Story of English, Howell had me laughing out loud.  He sprinkles just enough research and fact through his story to make it believable, yet most of it is "asterisked" as he fills in the gaps of our knowledge. . . . The Rude Story of English is a book for lovers of words, puns, history, language and humour.  If you want a good dose of humour with a bit of learning thrown in, I heartily recommend it." —The Coastal Spectator

"[I]t is, in many ways, a flawless book. Taking what in other hands has often been tedious, uninteresting and even (by way of omission) inaccurate, Howell creates a book not only dead interesting, it's also Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy funny. Howell knows how to tell a story." —January Magazine

"Who would have guessed that a history of the English language could be so riotously funny, so twisted and unfettered, yet so genuinely informative and thought-provoking? . . . Howell, who worked on both the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the Canadian Oxford Thesaurus before becoming the 'in-house word nerd' on CBC Radio, brings to The Rude Story of English a deep love of the language, a questing imagination, and a sense of humour which is only rarely refined (read: often bawdy), but always a delight." —Zoomer Magazine


Length: 308 pp
Genre/Category: Non-Fiction-Social Science/History/Language
Publication Date: November 5 2013

World rights, McClelland & Stewart

For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.
Tom Howell

Bill Bryson once wrote that what immediately sets English apart from other languages is the richness of its vocabulary. In The Rude Story of English, Tom Howell, an ex-lexicographer and former dictionary editor, takes on one of his favourite stories: how the English language came to be — and tells it through its rudest, most offensive, simplest parts. While other books concentrate on proper English, slang is the cutting edge of English, and rudeness is slang's most creative point. From 440 AD, when Hengest, a Germanic warrior, first stepped onto English shores and cursed as his boots filled with seawater, to the present day, curses, insults, and rude words have played as important a role in the story of English as polite ones. Hugely entertaining and informative, The Rude Story of English is part fact, part fiction and reveals that, no matter how uncomfortable or off-putting, there's much to be learned from some of a language's most colourful parts. You can visit him online at www.rudestory.ca.