The Story of English in 100 Words

I love book titles that jump out at me. It’s not easy to think up an evocative phrase or name that’ll stand out in the mass of dusty shelves of non-fiction, hardly grazed by regular readers who’d rather wallow by a willow on the wonderful world of fiction.

That’s why The Story of English in 100 Words caught my eye. Even more thought provoking was the size of the book, for I’d thought even Frankenstein-like font wouldn’t require 200 pages for a 100-word book.

Good work, David Crystal. You had my attention. 

I flipped open the book to realise that the author had used misleading phrasing as a tactic to grip his reader—a curious use of the language he was just about to embark decoding. It wasn’t the story of English in 100 words, but rather the stories of 100 English words. 

And then it made sense. In a way, in a crude and uncanny way of speaking of words and usage, the author was right: by telling the stories of 100 exemplary words, he’d hoped to explore the evolution of English itself. So in a way, that title wasn’t such a bad choice.

Curious.

I’d have preferred a more direct one, though.

That said, the book is still an engaging read. As I browsed through the words and the narrative associated with each, I saw that the author had strayed away from strict research and technicalities to take a more relatable approach.

Here and there, strewn like breadcrumbs on lasagne, were the author’s observations about a certain word. For a student referencing it hoping to find matter for an assignment, the interjecting musings may be a hindrance, but for a language enthusiast who picked up the book because of its captivating title, they were fodder for thought.

For instance, 

We have to be especially careful when it comes to the adjective’ arsy’.

In Britain, the word means ‘bad-tempered’ or ‘arrogant’, as in “We get the occasional arsy customer in here.”

In Australia, the word has developed a positive meaning, ‘lucky’: “That was an arsy goal.”

It’s wise to pay special attention to who’s speaking before deciding what to make of “You’re an arsy bastard!”

Throughout the book are little gems like this that smile at you from behind the veil of informing. Of course, the author does record origins of the word where applicable, and the background story of how it fell into regular speak.

Words like doublespeak, Twitterverse, arsy, doobry, blurb, and a multitude of exciting others make you go, “huh,” and look away from the book to stare at the trees passing you as you sit on a long bus commute, thinking, mulling over what you just read. There’re stories about words like “muggle” and how J.K. Rowling toppled its meaning from a drugger—as was the accepted meaning in the 20th century—to mean a person without magical (or special) powers.

This is a lighthearted book. Though its an intense concept—exploring the history of certain quirky words and how life has folded them into our everyday batter and banter—the author does a great job of keeping it readable and level headed, even for the casual reader in the street. 

By the River Piedra

by the river piedra

I’ve been having a bad last year, not finishing the books I started. So this time, I promised to get in a lot of reading as possible.

I had bought a boxed set of Paulo Coelho’s books, and after The Alchemist and The Witch of Portobello (which I loved), I opened this one with the same interest.

I was a bit disappointed. People had warned me about the author’s excessive reference to religion, but not having experienced it much in other books I had read, I went into this one innocent.

I won’t deny, there were some great parts where I could relate to the story and to the spiritual message. But by the time I finished the book, I was left only with the author’s strong religious beliefs. I even had the feeling he had tried to force his belief into the book.

Nevertheless, it was an easy read, and I liked the way the author differentiated the love for god and the love for people.

Overall, I’m not sure if I liked the book enough to recommend it to anyone. Would I read it again? I don’t think so.


I reviewed this book on Goodreads.

Crafting A Dream City

Cristian

I’ve been following Cristian’s blog for a while and I feel guilty each time I read one of his posts. Because though I’ve had his book on my kindle for a long time, I’ve never read it.

I should have read it sooner.

The one constant in the story is Cristian’s voice. He kept seeping through the words. There were either sentences he often uses in his posts or thoughts that every writer could relate to. The story itself is about artists, art and the consequences of choosing art.

I loved the story. And the main reason: simple words ringing hard in your ears. This book lingers.

“But the truth is, what doesn’t kill you makes you wish it did.” – Cristian Mihai, Dream City

This is Cristian. Every syllable of that line screams Cristian. And it’s more; it’s every artist. And it was gripping that in many places, I felt the protagonist and Cristian interchange. Not just him, I felt myself intermingle with the protagonist too. Because the characters speak to you, and you suddenly realize their life is your life.

The author knows the pain of being an artist, and he translates the emotion with so much art.

Dream City

That’s it. The essence of everything we do.

Never Let Me Go

never let me go

Sometimes we have the habit of volunteering for sadness. That’s how I watched this movie.

This is not the kind of movie you’d watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon with the best tasting food on one side and some bitter beer on the other. It’s far from a romantic comedy that would help you relax and probably fall into a deep sleep.

It’s not the kind of movie you’d watch in the theatre, or on a chilly Friday night, with friends looking for adventure.

This is one of those good movies that tug at your heartstrings and make you feel bad about yourself.

It makes you hate yourself — it’s one of those movies people say would change the way you see the world.

True that; it does. But it also makes you realize how evil we are as humans.

The story is of three friends who are a part of the National Donor Program. A program that raises children in isolation, monitors everything from their food intake to their life choices, and ensures they are healthy enough — until they are old enough to fulfill their purpose. Their purpose: to donate vital organs to save the lives of people they’d never meet.

Every donor goes through multiple donations until they complete — or die, in simple terms. Some complete after four donations, but most do sooner than that.

‘Never let me go’ is the story of Tommy, Kathy and Ruth – three youngsters who fall in love with themselves and then into life’s greedy hands.

This movie will leave you miserable. The music – the violin solo – will painfully clench your heart and will render you speechless.

It did for me.

The Dhabba Experience

Dhabba

I hadn’t heard of this restaurant before my team mates told me we were going here for a team treat.

A bit of digging told me there were 10 of the same restaurants and that they serve good seafood. A lover of prawns, I set my mind.

Even as we got in to the cab, I could feel my insides expanding with excitement. I was a little ashamed too, it was just food after all. But again, it’s food!

I was all ready; my phone was fully charged and so was I. As we got down from the cab, I started clicking pictures of the surrounding. I was going to write an impressive review- complete with photos and all.

It was a large extravagant area – for a restaurant. Felt like walking into a huge holiday resort in the making. There was a big play area for kids and even a separate section of the restaurant for pure vegetarians. Sadly though, it was too hot for a soul to enjoy the slides and rides.

We walked inside and my excitement settled a little – we were finally there. It was now all about food.

We took our seats – three tables of it and I began looking around. It is a Punjabi restaurant and to reinforce the mood were paintings of Punjabis – beautiful work by the way. The ambiance within the restaurant was perfect – almost empty. Which is unsurprising considering it’s somewhere in the middle of nowhere – on the highway. There were a couple of small groups, and they were quiet too. The lighting was mild – not that it needed much, it was in the middle of the day. And being so, it was so hot outside but so cool inside. The tables were of stone and with the air-conditioning set at 18 degrees, the atmosphere was welcoming.

The service people were a little less welcoming though. Can’t blame them too, they were probably shocked to see a group of 15 people thronging into their restaurant with no regard for, well, anything.

Anyway, without much ado, we ordered.

We began with hot and sour soup. I’m not much of a soup person, but I loved it.

They didn’t have many of what we hoped to have – like the tandoori momos for instance. I was looking too forward to tasting that. We ordered prawns salt and pepper, fish fingers, mutton something and a couple of chicken somethings for starters.

chicken
The starters

None of them was spicy enough for me, but the taste was good. Prawns salt and pepper was a bit too salty with too little pepper, but I’d surely recommend this place anytime.

Moving on to main course, the biriyani was dry, I heard. I didn’t try the biriyani but the taste was good – judging from the way my team mates devoured. Another friend mentioned that the fried rice was great too, but I’d vouch for something else. My love for the greens tempted me to order pudhina (mint) paratha, and it surprised me, as always. But thankfully, it did not disappoint. It didn’t look too appealing; my team mates’ eyes widened at the sight of it – not to mention that my jaw dropped. I recovered soon enough though.

pudhina paratha
Pudhina paratha

It tasted good – the pudhina powder added a little bitterness, just the way I like it. To accompany the paratha, I had ordered prawns chettinad masala and a chicken dish – I forgot the exact name.

The menu was so extensive and the names of the dishes were difficult to remember. The best thing though was that the taste was worth remembering.

At the end of it all, I decided to top it up with lime soda. Because I suddenly remembered that I had been suffering from an upset stomach for a couple of days. Just the day before I survived on liquid salts.

Coming back to the lime soda, it was too salty for me – pungent. But it did do its duty; I digested it all without much trouble.

Anyway, my colleagues ordered a variety of ice cream, gulab jamun, milk shakes and funnily enough – carrot halwa.

Ha, that carrot halwa! Not to taste; reminded me of sweet paan.

With an unmistakable burp, our treat ended and we walked out, satisfied and satiated.

After a few minutes of idling and selfie taking, we re-boarded our cab and came back to office – only to look forward to going home.

Click to add a blog post for Dhabba Express on Zomato

P.S: My very first restaurant review. Any thoughts, folks?