Mother Tongue: The English Language

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9780140143058: Mother Tongue: The English Language
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How did English, 'treated for centuries as the inadequate and second-rate tongue of peasants' become the undisputed global language? How did words like shampoo, sofa and rowdy (and others drawn from over fifty languages) find their way into our dictionary? In this revealing and often hilarious book, Bill Bryson examines the mother tongue and explores the countless varieties of English and the perils of marketing brands with names like Pschitt and Super Piss. With entertaining sections on the oddities of swearing and spelling, spoonerisms and Scrabble, and a consideration of what we mean by 'good English', Mother Tongue is one of the most stimulating books yet written on this endlessly engrossing subject.

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Who would have thought that a book about the English language would be so entertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson--a zealot--is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodise about "the colourless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence, that carries the book.

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.

Review:

"Complex and maddeningly illogical though it is, English is spoken by more than 300 million people around the world...Its story has been told before, but seldom as deftly or as memorably...An enthralling excursion...A motherlode of delectable trivia."--Burt Hochburg, "The New York Times Book Review""Diverting and richly anecdotal...Bryson is an unalloyed fan who relishes the language's versatility, verb hoard and vast vocabulary."--Robert Taylor, "Boston Globe""Vastly informative and vastly entertaining...A scholarly and fascinating book."--Fred S. Holley, "Los Angeles Times"

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780380715435: The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0380715430 ISBN 13:  9780380715435
Publisher: William Morrow & Company, 2001
Softcover

9780141040080: Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

Penguin, 2009
Softcover

9780688078959: The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

Willia..., 1990
Hardcover

9781435121683: The Mother Tongue English and how it got that way

Hardcover

9780241130483: Mother Tongue: The English Language

Hamish..., 1990
Hardcover

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