The Story of Be

The Story of Be

A Verb's-eye View of the English Language

Book - 2017
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It's the most simple, unassuming, innocent-looking verb: 'to be'. Yet it is jam-packed with more different meanings, forms, and uses than any other English word. As he reveals be's multiple incarnations, David Crystal takes us to the heart of our flexible and changing language. He tells the intriguing story in 26 chapters, each linked to a particular usage. We meet circumstantial 'be' ('how are you?'), numerical 'be' ('two and two is four'), quotative 'be' ('so I was like, "wow"'), and ludic 'be' ('oh no he isn't!'), and a whole swarm of other meanings. Bringing the ideas to life are a host of examples from sources as varied as 'Beowulf', Jane Austen, pantomime, 'Hamlet' (of course), and 'Star Wars', with cartoons from Ed McLachlan and Punch peppered throughout. Full of fascinating nuggets of information, it is a book to delight any lover of words and language.
Publisher: ©2017
Oxford :, Oxford University Press,, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780198791096
Characteristics: xii, 191 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Contents: To be or not to be : existential be
Being, as was : obituarial be
Time being : temporal be
Business is business : identifying be
I am to resign : obligational be
Has the doctor been? : visitational be
How are you? : circumstantial be
I've been with someone : sexual be
Two and two is four : numerical be
I might be being obsessive, but . . . : progressive be
My kids are all grown up : perfective be
Wannabes and has-beens : nominal be
That is to say : signifying be
You're cheeky, you are : repetitive be
Been and done it : eventive be
Have you been? : lavatorial be
So be it : factual be
I live in Wales, innit? : declarative be
So I was, like, 'wow ': quotative be
Woe is me : befalling be
All shall be well : membership be
How old are you? : chronological be
Is you is or is you ain't? : musical be
Oh no he isn't : ludic be
Lane closed ahead : missing be
It's just a book, is all : summarizing be.
Summary: It's the most simple, unassuming, innocent-looking verb: 'to be'. Yet it is jam-packed with more different meanings, forms, and uses than any other English word. As he reveals be's multiple incarnations, David Crystal takes us to the heart of our flexible and changing language. He tells the intriguing story in 26 chapters, each linked to a particular usage. We meet circumstantial 'be' ('how are you?'), numerical 'be' ('two and two is four'), quotative 'be' ('so I was like, "wow"'), and ludic 'be' ('oh no he isn't!'), and a whole swarm of other meanings. Bringing the ideas to life are a host of examples from sources as varied as 'Beowulf', Jane Austen, pantomime, 'Hamlet' (of course), and 'Star Wars', with cartoons from Ed McLachlan and Punch peppered throughout. Full of fascinating nuggets of information, it is a book to delight any lover of words and language.

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