Reviews (UK)

These reviews appeared after the UK hardcover edition of Lingo was published in November 2014:

Schermafbeelding 2014-11-29 om 12.19.02Lingo was selected one of the Higher Education Books of the Year by professor Alan Sked, who writes, ‘I can’t praise it enough‘ and then tries by exclaiming, ‘Brilliant, witty, excellent!’ An admirable effort, I’d say. Also in The Times, some weeks earlier, journalist Rose Wild summed up her review [paywall] with the phrase ‘a charming, funny and fascinating gem of a book’. The Times Literary Supplement carried yet another article, in which a fascinated Tom Chivers confessed to feeling left ‘hungry for more‘.

Schermafbeelding 2014-11-28 om 12.50.27In The GuardianSteven Poole, a language writer himself, called Lingo ‘a richly diverting exercise’, qualifying the author as ‘learned and pleasantly ironic’. He commented favourably on many chapters – and his observation about French would make for a nice discussion.

Schermafbeelding 2015-01-02 om 18.18.26To the Financial Times‘s Stephanie Boland, Lingo is ‘an entertaining, accessible guide’ as well as a ‘smorgasbord’ of ‘compelling stories‘.

sunday-telegraphIn the Sunday Telegraphthe Irish historian and writer John Gallagher called Lingo ‘joyful’, and went on, ‘Lingo is that rare thing: a book about language that manages to be both genuinely interesting and enormous fun. Particularly impressive is Dorren’s ability to flip with ease from jokes and surprising facts to the discussion of complex linguistic ideas.’

DailyMailIn her crisp and clever review in the MUST READ section, the Daily Mail‘s Julia Richardson calls the book ‘fact-packed’ and ‘absorbing‘. And the Mail on Sunday added, ‘Scholarly but terrifically entertaining.’ (I would have chosen ‘and’ rather than ‘but’, but then, I do not read the Mail.)

BBCBBC Ulster broadcaster (and novelist) Roisin McAuley found it ‘fascinating‘ and singled out the ‘great chapter on Irish’.

Schermafbeelding 2014-11-13 om 15.53.19In The Spectator, writer and translator Daniel Hahn managed to cram a great number of highlights from the book into a very informative 850-word article and make some pertinent & fair general observations and throw in gratifying praise on the lines of Lingo is full of such treats,’ ‘full of charm and pleasing detail’, an ‘amusing tour of Europe’s linguistic landscape’.

Schermafbeelding 2014-11-17 om 19.03.31Big Issue editor Paul McNamee twittered, ‘It’s terrific. Words teem off the pages. Go get it.’ Whereupon he invited me to write an essay for the magazine. This is it.

In the Daily TelSchermafbeelding 2014-11-27 om 11.15.57egraph‘s travel section, Michael Kerr included Lingo among the ‘best Christmas gifts for the armchair traveller’, and describes it as ‘entertaining even for the most determinedly monoglot of travellers’.

Schermafbeelding 2014-12-02 om 16.53.22The Morning Star‘s Gwyn Griffiths, a Welsh author, translator and journalist, frankly expressed his feelings right from the start: ‘I love this book‘. And I loved his review, down to the last sentence: ‘Such amusements, along with the book’s mine of information, make this a great seasonal stocking filler — whether you’re a lingophile or not.’ Also, I agreed with his observation that Occitan would have deserved a chapter of its own. French publishers, take heed: I’ll write one for you. On Corsican, too.


Stuart Kelly listed a variety of non-fiction published in  2014. Some of it consisted of ‘books one remembers long after one has read them (…) for the glorious details. Gaston Dorren’s Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide To Europe is one such.’

BelfastTFrom Michael Conaghan’s review in The Belfast Telegraph: ‘This year’s sleeper Christmas hit’ (… is …) ‘an amiable and entertaining examination of European languages in all their idiosyncratic glory.’

TheLinguistIn The Linguist, translator Ken Paver described how ‘the enthusiasm of the writing, combined with the relentless series of facts that make one dash to Google to find out more, make for a pleasurable read’, adding that ‘every chapter has something worth knowing.’

BabelTranslator Connie Hill-Turner ‘would highly recommend Lingo to language lovers everywhere, regardless of their linguistic ability,’ and she’s charmed by the book’s ‘subtle humour.’ Her review was published in the language magazine Babel.

WL logoThe travel magazine Wanderlust (which also reviews underwear and gadgets) described Lingo as ‘a new approach to understanding the world’ and ‘ideal for any cunning linguist’.

Schermafbeelding 2014-11-20 om 16.26.31On his Leading Lights website, Paul Antony Campbell, a motivational leader with an interest in languages, called LINGO ‘a beautifully written and often amusing guide’ as well as ‘an extremely interesting page-turner, and a tantalising linguistic sampler that urges us to dig deeper into [different] cultures’, before concluding that he ‘will be re-reading this book with pleasure on many occasions’.

Schermafbeelding 2014-12-11 om 16.38.12The last paragraph of the review that writer, publisher and bookshop keeper Roger Jones posted on his blog runs as follows: ‘The English are famously fascinated by their own language but the brilliant Lingo takes the story several steps further and actually enriches understanding of our own language (English is Dorren’s final chapter 60).’

More thoughts vicarOn her weblog, the reverend book-lover Caroline Throup said she ‘loved all of it‘, ‘it’ being Lingo, whose ‘humorous style of writing is wonderfully easy-to-read and highly engaging’. One more quote: ‘I hope I’ve managed to convince you that Lingo is worth a read.’

Eclectic Light Company‘I strongly recommend this book to all who have the slightest interest in languages, history, or Europe,’ blogger Howard Oakley concluded his review. ‘Even the professional linguist will still find it thoroughly worthwhile and an enjoyable read.’

ScilogsBiologist Tom Webb found Lingo ‘a valuable overview of the languages and people of my home continent’, ‘full of fascinating nuggets‘; in a word, ‘excellent’.

In an article on LinkedIn, translator David Jones described Lingo as ‘a tour of sixty European languages that challenges us, entertains us and reminds of the value of multilingualism.’

John M. Kirk, a linguist at Queen’s University Belfast, sent me an email saying that he found the book ‘brilliant‘ and ‘a delight to read‘, adding that ‘your treatments are both spot on and very witty.’

And I’m sure you don’t want to miss this review in 140 characters:Gareth Xavier

It says, “Here’s my book selfie for @WelshWorldBookDay. My favorite book of February was ‘Lingo’ by @languagewriter. Fascinating book!” Note the similarity between lyfr for ‘book’ and the French word livre, both of which are children of Latin liber. Chwefror comes from the Latin februarius, as does, of course, February.

On Amazon, most readers have awarded the book 4 or 5 stars, both in the UK and the US. I particularly like Nicholas Maddaloni’s review, which I think is spot on. I don’t mind his ‘mere’ 4 stars – I guess every writer feels that their next book should and hopefully will be better than the one just out. Let me add that you won’t hear me complain about one Peter‘s feelings about Lingo either: a ‘towering achievement’ to be ‘fiercely proud’ of…