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When and why did 'thou' disappear from Standard English? Would a Victorian Cockney have said 'observation' or 'hobservation'? Was Jane Austen making a mistake when she wrote 'Jenny and James are walked to Charmonth this afternoon'? This superbly well-informed - and also wonderfully entertaining - history of the English language answers all these questions, showing how the many strands of English (Standard English, dialect and slang among them) developed to create the richly-varied language of today.
David Crystal is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has published over 90 books and was awarded the OBE for services to the English language in 1995. He is the editor of the Penguin Encyclopedia and the New Penguin Factfinder.