The Rude Story of English

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

There are only two problems with the story of the English language: one, no hero. Two, not rude enough. In The Rude Story of English, recovering lexicographer Tom Howell swiftly remedies these and gives us a rousing account of our language – without all the boring bits and with all the interesting parts kept in – and reveals English’s boisterous, at times obnoxious, character.

From a haphazard beginning in 449 AD, when a legendary, fearsome Germanic warrior named Hengest tripped and fell onto British shores, the real story of English has been rife with accident, physical comedy, phallic  monuments, rude behaviour, dubious facts, and an alarming quantity of poetry written by lawyers.

Across vast distances of space and time, from the language’s origins to its fast-approaching retirement, a moody and miraculously long-lived Hengest voyages to the pubs of Chaucer’s London, aboard pirate ships in the north Atlantic, to plantations in Barbados, bookstores in Jamaica, the chilly inlet of Quidi Vidi, Newfoundland, a private men’s club in Australia, and beyond.

Part Monty Python sketch, part Oxford English Dictionary, The Rude Story of English displays an exuberant love of language and a sharp, anti-authoritarian sense of humour. Entertaining and informative, it looks at English through its most uncomfortable, colourful, and off-putting parts, chronicling the story of the language as it has never been told before.


“Twisted, entertaining, and uncensored….Brilliantly written, with side-splitters on nearly every page….If you like to laugh, read this book right now!”
—Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans, winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour