I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect: a bit of a background on why English is the kind of language it is. Not particularly surprising or novel, but it was interesting enough to pass the time. English seems to be different from its "related" languages and the author is quite, err, let's use the word "adamant" (rather than ranting) about the Celtic impact on English. Yes, he does admit that traditional scholars disagree and offers his own "evidence" but it isn't his disagreement with the establishment that got a little annoying but his repetitive "digs" on the subject.
I think it's very suitable for audio because he discusses nuances of language/pronunciation which I don't think would have been as noticeable in writing. He narrates it fairly well, but you can tell it's not his primary job. I think his pronunciation of foreign words was clear enough, and I have no idea if it was correct.
The information was great, but the author wrote the entire book as if he was responding to a linguistic theory that he disagreed with, constantly referring to how his argument refutes the standard theories. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the standard theories and would have greatly appreciated if he had simply stated his own case convincingly instead. Frankly, the most frustrating part about it was how easy it would be to simply edited out the arguing parts. They were neither informative nor helpful and were thus, completely superfluous.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a concise introduction to the evolution of the English language, and is a great choice for anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of English without making a huge investment of time. This book makes connections further back in history than other books and gives more focus to grammar rather than the more common emphasis on vocabulary. It gets a bit speculative about some influences, such as possible Phoenician influences, but those speculations make it more fun. It is a good companion piece to Melvyn Bragg's "The Adventure of English", also available from Audible. John McWhorter, the author, does an excellent job of narrating, and this audiobook is a great example of the value an author who is also a capable narrator can bring to narrating their own work. The passion they have for the topic comes through in their narration and it makes it fun to listen to them. Well done!
"fabric artist and quilter"
I wasn't expecting this book to be on English grammar, but an up to date version of where words came from. But what the book explained was the impact of the grammar of existing languages (gaelic, cornish, welsh etc) on English. How and why English is different from very similar languages that developed from proto-german in the years BC. It made fascinating listening not least due to the fact that the narrator was the researcher and made it fun and amusing to listen to.
My father was a stickler for correct English both spoken and written. I remember my childhood being spent constantly corrected for incorrectly constructed English. I now appreciate those lessons and take great joy when I see poorly structured or incorrect English spoken or written, particularly if its by someone who should know better. If I had been taught the reason why English is oddly constructed I might have made less mistakes but this book and the research is relatively new
I am sure that my father would have revelled in this book, I know I particularly enjoyed it and anyone with an interest in languages and the development of English would also enjoy this book.
Whorter has some very interesting things to say and since he is something of an "odd man out" from majority thinking, it is natural that much of his points are "push off" points. He makes some of them very well, too, but tends to go too far, becoming guilty of the very same kind of arrogance he accuses others of displaying. The last hour is shockingly preachy and just plain odd.
I find the history of the English language to be fascinating, so when I saw this book I thought it was perfect for me. It wasn't. It is more a history of English grammar than of words and I found it difficult to follow the grammar by just listening. Many of the points made were very interesting, but if I could have seen the words rather than just hearing them I probably would have understood it better. You have to be an English teacher (I was) or someone really interested in how languages differ (a linguist) to understand and enjoy this one.
I liked the author's sense of humor, and he does a good job reading the text. However, the material truly does repeat itself, giving the effect of an article fleshed to book length.
For a book aimed at a general audience, McWhorter belabors, seriously belabors the first point in the book to utter tedium. Besides that, his repeated incredulity at his thesis regarding the Celtic influence on English not being widely accepted by linguists detracts from the material. Yes, I understand they don't agree; you don't have to tell me 20 times. It got to the point I just couldn't listen any further.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I absolutely loved McWhorter's The History of Human Language and was really looking forward to this book.
Well, it was nothing like the other one and I had to quit an hour and a half shy of the end. McWhorter's enthusiasm and
playfulness were totally missing. He might as well have been conjugating verbs for 5 hours; it would have sounded the same to me. Great title, not so great book!
This book, in my opinion, is for serious linguists. If you are looking for something both educational and fun, get his Great Course audiobook mentioned above.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
The author/narrator’s enthusiasm and humor are among the best parts of this book. The author describes some mildly off-beat theories about the evolution of the English language. I enjoyed hearing these ideas even if I was not completely convinced. There is also a bunch of interesting fun facts about English grammar. This book refreshingly focuses mostly on grammar while most other books in this genre emphasis etymology. The material gets a bit complicated for audio from time to time and the author does not always support his theories well enough to be compelling, but overall this was interesting and fun.
It seems to me the author mischaracterizes the mainstream linguists’ hesitation to accept his theories. McWhorter repeatedly points out that the alternative to his theories is to believe some language features appeared at random. When there is insufficient evidence to support a theory about a language feature, most mainstream linguists choose to believe the source of the feature is unknown (and thus may have arisen randomly).