Language is like a vast spider’s web. In this volume Jean Aitchison explores the different facets of this web. She begins with the cobweb of false worries which surrounds language. She then discusses how language evolved in the human species, how children acquire it, and how educated English speakers remember 50,000 or more words. Finally, she argues that people are right to be concerned about language, though not in the ways traditionally assumed. This is the text of the 1996 BBC Reith lectures, slightly revised for publication, with illustrations and full references, and an afterword which looks at the reception of the lectures.