Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme--And Other Oddities of the English Language

(Author) (Illustrator)

Product Details

$21.99  $20.45
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.0 X 8.5 X 0.9 inches | 0.95 pounds

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Arika Okrent is a linguist and author of In the Land of Invented Languages. She worked in a brain research lab on her way to a Psycholinguistics PhD from the University of Chicago, and now writes about language for various publications including Mental Floss, The Week, Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Slate, and Aeon.

Sean O'Neill is an illustrator and writer living in Chicago. He is the creator of the Rocket Robinson series of graphic novels for young readers.

Arika and Sean are also known for their series of live-drawing whiteboard videos on language and other topics, produced by mentalfloss.com.


"In more than 40 brief, readable chapters, Okrent brings both erudition and wit to the history of English and the mechanisms of language change and all the quirky consequences ... Every language should have a book like this one." -- E. L. Battistella, CHOICE

"Okrent's book provides an all-encompassing and detailed overview of how earlier stages of the English language and language change can explain many present-day English irregularities ... Okrent brings order to the world of irregularities in the English language." -- Anke Lensch, Linguist List

"...she explains well why the language remains such a minefield for even educated native speakers, never mind those picking it up as a second or third tongue." -- Mark Broatch, NZ Listener

"I love everything about this book. Arika Okrent is insightful, funny, and answers questions you didn't even know you had!" -- Mignon Fogarty, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

"Arika Okrent is the best at taking oft-repeated stories about English and pushing them a step deeper. If you buy one 'fun facts about English' book, make it this one. Lively explanations from Okrent plus charming drawings by O'Neill make for a highly engaging book perfect for answering your (or your kid's) questions about the oddities of the English language." -- Gretchen McCulloch, author of Because Internet and host of Lingthusiasm

"Don't let the joy of reading these stories fool you. Arika Okrent brings real intellectual heft to researching them. As you find yourself eagerly passing them on, you'll realize how much serious stuff about language you've learned too." -- Lane Greene, author of Talk on the Wild Side and You Are What You Speak

"Arika Okrent has done the magic trick of compiling the kinds of questions the general public actually asks about language, instead of the kinds of questions we linguists would LIKE the public to ask. Everybody--including many linguists!--will feast on every page." -- John McWhorter, Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, host of the language podcast Lexicon Valley, and Contributing Editor at The Atlantic

"One of the most appealing features of Highly Irregular is its stock of poems and brain-teasers illustrating the language's more absurd quirks." -- Henry Hitchings, The Wall Street Journal

"The English language bristles with words whose spelling and pronunciation are at odds. Words that look as though they should rhyme do not: tough, through, dough. Words that are spelled differently sound exactly the same: so, sow, sew. Some have pronunciations that seem almost unrelated to their written forms - could anyone confronted for the first time with colonel figure out that it's "kernel"? In her wonderful new book, linguist Arika Okrent dives into these questions." -- Melissa Mohr, Christian Science Monitor

"The book has so many virtues it's hard to know where to start." -- Orin Hargraves, Visual Thesaurus

"[Okrent's] careful tracing of the steps that brought the language to the way it is now builds a picture of social and historical factors as much as linguistic ones. She provides a sense of order in the chaos It is a delight to see the way this unruly system quietly gets on, doing its job of allowing us to communicate. Okrent's experience in linguistic communication allows her to explain even technical concepts clearly." - Laura R. Bailey, Times Literary Supplement

"[A] learned and captivating study of how the weirdness of our language unfolded....[Okrent] wields sharp and powerful tools that satisfyingly scratch our linguaphilic itch." -- Michael M. Rosen, National Review