It is possible (if admittedly fanciful) to envisage the English language as being like a vast and ancient city - magnificent and full of interest, but at the same time shambolic. It has been subject to suburban sprawl, has constantly added new edifices, upgraded heritage precincts in some quarters, demolished them in others, and has complex roading systems freely negotiable only by those who have long lived in that area. And the 'city' has wrenched benefits from other civilisations by shamelessly raping, pillaging and outright thieving from them - words, images, expressions and proverbs. No other language has been safe from the grasp of this great conurbation known as English: Sanskrit, Hindustani, Arabic, Turkish, Russian, Japanese can be found in its small winding alleys besides, on the main streets, the more expected Latin, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Swedish and Russian ('more expected' because Britain is only 35 kilometres from the Continent at the closest point).
Max Cryer is a seasoned researcher and writer on aspects of the English language. A well-known broadcaster and entertainer, he hosts a weekly radio slot on the subject. In a long career, he has been a schoolteacher, a compere and TV host, as well as a singer in London, Las Vegas and Hollywood.