The world’s most popular travel writer takes a humourous look at just what it means to be ‘American’, from the Pilgrim Fathers to the hamburger and beyond.
Made in America describes the history of the English language in America, by exploring the social and economic pressures driving its rapid departure from standard English.
There’s a dry statement if ever there was one, but if there were no more than that to Made in America, would we have chosen Mike McShane to read it? Of course not, but there is and we did.
That’s not to say Made in America doesn’t trace the development of American English. It does, from the Pilgrim Fathers’ need to find new vocabulary for new experiences right through to the twentieth century’s advertising-speak via Tom Paine’s Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, the War of Jenkins’ Ear and so on. Of course, the history of a language is also the history of its speakers, and Bill Bryson illuminates just what it means, and, indeed, all the many things it has meant over the course of four centuries, to be American.
So you want to know why we chose Mike McShane? Well, because, like Mr McShane himself, Made in America is generous, engaging, perceptive, vivid, wise and above all very, very funny. If you want to know more about Jenkin’s Ear, or why Mrs Stuyvesant Fish drove over her servant three times in the space of a few minutes, or even why we say ‘Gordon Bennett!’, you’ll just have to buy the tape.
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Bill Bryson's "Informal History of the English Language in the United States" is, in a word, fascinating. After reading this tour de force, it's clear that a nation's language speaks volumes about its true character: you are what you speak. Bryson traces America's history through the language of the time, then goes on to discuss words culled from everyday activities: immigration, eating, shopping, advertising, going to the movies, and others.
Made in America will supply you with interesting facts and cocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, that Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credo has its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor Walter Matthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that the supposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints," by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a license for premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussion of American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is that it offers much, much more.Review:
"A tremendously sassy work, full of zip, pizzazz and all those other great American qualities" (Will Self Independent on Sunday)
"Immensely entertaining... a sharp eye for odd facts and amusing anecdotes" (Michael Sheldon Daily Telegraph)
"The book is a triumph. Bryson carries it off by his joie de vivre, his unadorned prose and the sheer width of his snooping beneath the skin of the American dream" ( Literary Review)
"Funny, wise, learned and compulsive" ( GQ)
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Book Description HarperCollins Audio, 1995. Audio Cassette. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 1048082