In This Review

European Language Matters: English in Its European Context
European Language Matters: English in Its European Context
By Peter Trudgill
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 275 pp

Because of the global reach of first the United Kingdom and later the United States, the world language today is imperfect English, spoken by well over a billion people. The majority learn it as a second language—and according to some (generally British) native speakers, other (generally American) native speakers do not speak it properly. Meanwhile, English has become the de facto European language, although among the EU member states, only two embrace it as one of their official languages: Ireland and Malta. One could not wish for a more qualified guide to the resulting chaos than Trudgill, a linguist who writes a popular column for The New European. He revels in English’s massive and diverse vocabulary, with its finely shaded differentiations among near synonyms, a result of historical interactions with other languages and dialects. He delights in each tidbit of knowledge: the word “metaphor,” for example, has a figurative meaning in English but is found on delivery trucks in Athens that “transfer things from place to place.” Trudgill rues the way that many English words lose their power and precision when employed indiscriminately, as with the superlative “awesome.” For anyone, native speaker or not, this book offers a pleasurable and humorous voyage of discovery.