Linguist David Crystal set himself a difficult challenge – covering the history of English in just 100 words. He met the challenge and the proof is in his latest book – The Story of English in 100 Words.

In an interesting article in the Telegraph, Crystal explains what his 100 words tell us about the origins and evolution of English:

At any one time language is a kaleidoscope of styles, genres and dialects. The story of English has to show these differences too. In particular, the words we use when we speak are not the same as those we use when we write. It’s the colloquial words which tend to be neglected, and so in my list along with dialect and debt we find doobry and dilly-dally. And I include words that represent a history of debate over usage, such as ain’t and disinterested, as well as words that tell the story of regional dialects, such as brock, egg and wee. Far more people speak a non-standard variety of English than speak standard English, and their story must also be told. (Source: Telegraph)

Some of the words on his list include the earliest example of a written English word – roe from the 5th Century; matrix, from the 16th Century, and ain’t, which dates back to the 18th Century. It looks like a fascinating read.