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The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way Kindle Edition
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“Vastly informative and vastly entertaining…A scholarly and fascinating book.” —Los Angeles Times
With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language.
From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world’s largest growth industries.
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Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: "This product will self-destruct in Mother Earth."), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00T3DR56C
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; Reissue edition (June 2, 2015)
- Publication date : June 2, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 2032 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 274 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #77,792 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I immediately purchased it and haven't regretted it once. This book is full of fun facts about English but also really does examine the ridiculous nature of the language from a linguistics point of view. That last part is surprising because he is not in fact a linguist!
It is light hearted fun but you will learn many things that you can impress your friends, or 92 year old grandfathers.
Although Amazon lists a 2015 publication date for the Kindle edition, this is clearly a much older book (most of the references and examples seem to be no more recent than the mid-80s) and seems to be one of Bryson's earliest publications. It lacks his usual superior scholarship combined with wit and clarity. I am not a linguistic expert as some reviewers here, but even I can detect that a lot of this is oversimplified, apocryphal, or simply wrong. Much of the book follows a pattern of making a statement about some foible of English followed by a long (often repetitive) list of examples. This does not really add up to either enlightenment or entertainment.
It would be a good subject for Bryson to revisit with a more rigorous and accurate approach.
Top reviews from other countries
It's not a bad book, it contains his usual touches of humour (perhaps that should be 'humor'), and is very readable as one would expect- I just wish that, given the book's title, it was actually written about the English language and not the American language.
Not good; not enjoyable; dull.
Scrupulously researched without being scholarly in tone, Bryson's text takes us from the earliest days of humankind, discussing, in witty style, the evolution of language, and the peculiarities of particular tongues and cultures. Each chapter has a different linguistic focus - pronunciation, grammar, spelling, swearing - featuring numerous examples, and building up a picture of a highly complex system of communication (or non-communication).
Since the early 1990s, when this book was first published, time has caught up with it somewhat; we know more about Homo Sapiens relations with the Neanderthals than we used to; and words such as "sick" have accrued new meanings. Also, given that certain assertions (e.g. about Welsh) are plainly inaccurate, I cannot vouch for some of the claims made about the idiosyncrasies within other languages.
Nevertheless, this is a highly entertaining read; a much-needed reminder of human ingenuity.