Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist's Guide to Britain

David Crystal and Hilary Crystal. Oxford Univ., $34.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-19-966812-0

Linguist David Crystal (The Stories of English) and his wife, Hilary, a speech therapist, cover a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, in this ambitious journey through the evolution of the English language. In 2012, the couple motored across the British Isles starting at the tip of Kent, heading north to Edinburgh and continuing southwest to Wales in search of linguistic landmarks. Part personal travelogue, part linguistic history, the authors use their 57 roadside stops as occasions to elaborate the history of the English language beginning at the 8th century rune in Ruthwell church and ending at University College London, with the 1980s Survey of English Usage. Male warriors dominate the linguistic landscape with a lone female, Juliana Berners, making a cameo in 1486 as contributor to The Book of St Albans. With the lion's share of stops located in and around London, the roving reader can comfortably retrace much of the route as each chapter closes with a page of detailed directions. Armchair travelers, on the other hand, may need the actual trip to complete the experience. Color photos. (Dec.)