David Crystal is a prolific scholar of linguistics who specializes in language pathology, phonetics, and linguistic disability.
What I admire most about Crystal's scholarship in Spell It Out is its humanity. He never loses sight of language as a form of human expressionwhether through orthography or pronunciation.
Consider for example, the history of the word, "ghost":
"Why is there an h here? And in ghastly, aghast and the whole family of related words ghostly, ghostliness, ghastliness, ghostbusters and so on? It wasn't there when the word first came into English. In Anglo-Saxon England we find it used in the form gast, with a long 'ah' vowel...But there was no h in the Anglo-Saxon spelling: the Holy Ghost was a Hali Gast. Nor was there an h in the word in Chaucer's time Then along came Caxton [William Caxton, the first printer and publisher of books in England], who sets up his printing-shop. But who was to carry out the painstaking task of typesetting ...