‘Every year, in Britain at least, the bestseller lists seem to bring news of another hit book on how our language is going to the dogs. As the eye-popping sales figures of authors such as Lynne Truss, Simon Heffer andNM Gwynne show, it’s an irresistible subject.
The Oxford scholar Simon Horobin’s new volume, by contrast, is part of an opposing genre of books by serious linguists on why, essentially, we shouldn’t care. Unfortunately the text sometimes slips into tutorial mode. We are treated to quite a lot of Old English, and talk of “preterite” tenses, “weak verb classes”, “inflexional endings”, and so on, as well as intermittent flashes of professorial humour (these days, would you believe it, “trolls are not just found lurking under bridges preying on unsuspecting billy goats, tweeting is not limited to birds, and surfing no longer requires a surfboard”).’