cover image Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language

David Crystal, Oxford Univ., $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-958585-4

Next year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Begat joins the volumes that draw attention to the unparalleled influence of the KJV on English language and literature. Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, U.K. and the author of several books including The Fight for English, undertook to search the entire KJV for every idiom (as distinct from quotations) that has become part of modern English vernacular. This book is the result of that quest. With a brief introduction and an epilogue that specifically answers the quantitative question, "How many did he find?" (answer: 257), the bulk of the book is devoted to the individual expressions and how they appear in modern popular culture. This makes for the kind of eclectic yet entertaining reading that one might tuck into a bathroom book basket. Readers can dip into the book anywhere and discover humorous and bizarre uses of biblical idioms alongside predictably sober and pious usages. An index of expressions directs readers to relevant pages. (Dec.)