Three new books parse the past and present of one of the most illogical, difficult-to-learn languages on the planet: English.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English (Gotham) by John McWhorter is a linguist's look at the multicultural history that helps explain the countless quirks of English grammar and usage.
Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling (Collins) by David Wolman is a funny and fact-filled look at our astoundingly inconsistent written language, from Shakespeare to spell-check.
You Know What I Mean? Words, Contexts and Communication (Cambridge) by Ruth Wajnryb is a witty exploration by an Australian linguist of the many reasons why what we say may not be what we mean.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor