English as linguistic "vacuum cleaner"

Linguist David Crystal loves the English language and its habit of adopting words from other languages. In a recent NPR interview, Crystal discusses English as a "vacuum cleaner of a language," and his book The Story of English in 100 Words. (audio)

"English has been this vacuum cleaner of a language, because of its history meeting up with the Romans and then the Danes, the Vikings and then the French and then the Renaissance with all the Latin and Greek and Hebrew in the background.

"Every language that English has come into contact with, it's pinched some of the words — thousands and thousands of words in many cases. And something like 600 languages have loaned or given words to English over the past 1,000 years."