Arika Okrent jokes that she originally wanted to call her new book “What the Hell, English?” Instead, she relegated her would-be title to the introductory section of Highly Irregular, her learned and captivating study of how the weirdness of our language unfolded. But what the hell, indeed — English presents oddities and pleasures too numerous to count and, perhaps until now, too difficult to decipher.
Okrent, an award-winning linguist and writer, wields sharp and powerful tools that satisfyingly scratch our linguaphilic itch (from the Old English gycce). Call it exploration with a purpose: “It’s not the case,” she argues, “that English …
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