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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

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I mean, I'm aware of these differences (I am usually able to recognize an American and a British when I hear them), but I do not think I can pronounce the word first according to one and then according to the other pronunciation. If you approach this book hoping for a scholarly analysis of the English language, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Many of the 'facts' in the book sounded suspicious so I started looking them up elsewhere and found a great many to be wrong.

I also didn't know that Latin evolved into French, Spanish, and Italian among other languages, to my embarrassment.

No place in the English-speaking world is more breathtakingly replete with dialects than Great Britain.

The book discusses the Indo-European origins of English, the growing status of English as a global language, the complex etymology of English words, the dialects of English, spelling reform, prescriptive grammar, and other topics including swearing. Then there is the matter of spelling and the role of printing and dictionaries in bring a greater if not complete uniformity to spelling--is it ax or axe, judgment or judgement (it is fascinating that the spell check in this word processor highlighted the latter of these two, and yet both are accepted with the shortened forms preferred). On the other hand, as a foreigner who had to learn English (and I’m native in non-Roman language), Bryson's insight in this area was particularly interesting and accurate for me. Consider the loss to English literature, if Joyce, Shaw, Swift, Yeats, Wilde, and Ireland's other literary masters have written in what inescapably a fringe language, their work will be as little known to us as those poets in Iceland or Norway, and that would be a tragedy indeed. After all, "perkele, saatana, vittu" are the first three words most foreigners learn and particularly the last one (female body part) is sprinkled into conversation as filler, much like the German word "aber".But it's hard to enjoy Bryson's jokes when you have this nagging suspicion that he's bending the truth for the sake of a snappy punchline. I've never heard that expression, but I've sure heard a whole plethora of other fascinating swear words depicting all manner of hell, damnation, and body parts. I stopped reading, thinking I might accidentally absorb some of the "facts" and perpetuate them myself!

We use Google Analytics to see what pages are most visited, and where in the world visitors are visiting from. Similarly, we have the divergences between New World and Old and some wonder whether American English will become a distinct language. the true story of an American lady, newly arrived in London, who opened her front door to find three burly men on the steps informing her that they were her dustmen. I happened to study the phonology and orthography of Welsh for about a week in that freshman linguistics class (I know, that makes me a big authority, right?The final bit of assholery is that he excuses British imperialism in Ireland and its policies both direct and indirect aimed at the destruction of the Irish language on the basis that, well, it’s given him more English-language literature to enjoy. Also, Irish and Welsh orthography is far more internally consistent than is that of English—but Bryson only allows the features of English to be virtues. Furthermore there is no preposition in any language that cannot be translated into at least three or four prepositions in English, nor are there any English prepositions that don't have numerous translations in the other language. I'm a longtime fan of Bill Bryson, but I had never read this early nonfiction work of his and was delighted to see that my library had a copy of the audiobook. The Acknowledgements of the book mentions several people, but I hope for their sake that he didn't follow their advice.

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