LINGO is myLINGO-leus book about European languages, especially written for non-linguists. It may also be read, off-label, by linguists, language teachers and translators in need of a reminder that languages are fun.

On the jacket, it says that it ‘takes us on an intriguing tour of fifty-odd European languages and dialects, from the life of PIE (our common ancestor) to the rise and rise of English, via the complexities of Welsh plurals and puzzling Czech accents. Along the way, it explains the baffling ways of Basque, unlocks Ukrainian’s enviable grammar trick and provides a crash course in alphabets. We learn (…) how the language of William the Conqueror lives on in the Channel Islands and consider if English is like Chinese.

LINGO also looks at words that English has loaned from across the continent, and those we really should import, like the Norwegians’ utepils (lager enjoyed out of doors), the Germans’ gönnen (the opposite of envy), or the Frisian tafalle (to turn out better than expected).’

I think the jacket puts it well.

– Read independent reviews of Lingo in the UKNorth America and elsewhere.
Read a few chapters on Google Books.

– See the list of all editions of Lingo.
– Buy Lingo at Waterstones, at any Amazon website (e.g. UK, USA, Germany) or in a High Street bookshop while it’s near you.

10 thoughts on “LINGO

  1. Just finished reading your book, Lingo, and i found it thoroughly enjoyable. I like the way you boiled the languages down into easily read chapters which kept me entertained and informed

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed reading your book! I was in Erasmus then and shared the facts with all my friends. EventualIy I made some comments and passed the book on, so I’m eager to see, what’s my friends experience with the book is going to be like!
    I felt as if the differences in languages could also quiet well explain the different ways we think (and try to built sentences in other languages…). Looking forward to your next book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi!

    Thank you for your book, I really enjoyed it! On the other side, I don’t think I have become better at recognizing languages as there were too many curious facts! You should write separate books about groups of languages that are closer to each other (like scandinavian, west slavic and so on). I will be waiting for those books! One question only: why didn’t you write about Swedish? This seems quite unfair to me.


    • That would have been unfair, I agree. Fortunately I did: chapter 18 is all about Swedish.
      I am working on a new book about languages, but it’s not the one you are suggesting, I’m afraid. Quite a few people have suggested I write a book about this or that. Can’t please everyone… But thanks for the idea!


      • Aha. Actually, I read this book in Swedish and there is no chapter about the Swedish language in the translation. Instead, chapter 18 is about Catalan.


      • Ah, correct; I noticed. I wonder why that is. I think the chapter on Swedish is not at all bad. But perhaps the publisher thought it silly to have a foreigner tell the Swedes something that’s widely known in their country.


  4. Yes, I got here after reading your fascinating book Lingo. l loved it! But I have one comment: On page 133, you stated that the word ‘chocolate’ came to English from Spanish. It may have come through Spanish but I think you’ll find it was originally ‘chocolatl’ from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs of central Mexico. Coyote, and several other words, also came to us from Nahuatl.


    • Thank you very much for your message, it always makes me happy to hear that readers have enjoyed Lingo. Writing is solitary work, so hearing back from people is really lovely, and especially when the response is favourable.
      You are absolutely right about Spanish having, in turn, borrowed chocolate from Nahuatl, and the same is true for tomato, chili, avocado (and guacamole), cacao, coyote as you say, and some less familiar words. Many of the French words in English have Latin roots, some of those have Greek roots and those again have deeper roots, sometimes in Proto-Indo-European, sometimes in some unknown language spoken in Greece before the Greeks arrived.
      What I’m trying to say is, borrowed words always have quite a history, and often that involves more borrowing. Take the other Spanish words mentioned in that paragraph: armada, mosquito and aficionado have Latin (and Indo-European) roots, but potato, maize and barbecue were all taken from an Amerindian language called Taino and guitar has deep roots in Greek but passed through Arabic before reaching Spanish and then English.


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