I've been reading Prof. McWhorter, or at least checking out what he has to say, in one popular magazine or another for many years; he generally provides interesting and refreshingly unpredictable views on many aspects of politics, race, and current affairs. But "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue," which concerns his own academic field of linguistics, is little more than an extended footnote on the origins of the verb "do" in English. To the audiobook's credit, it's read by McWhorter himself in what turns out to be a very likable, affable, conversational voice; he's clearly pleased with his ability to drop words and expressions from a host of other languages into his talk (a feat that's amusing and impressive at first, but which soon begins to make him sound like a barroom pedant). Unfortunately, the essentially trivial nature of the subject and the professor's extremely abstruse argument suggest that it's better suited to a doctoral dissertation or the pages of an academic journal. Anyone thinking this is going to be a history of the English language, or even (as the subtitle suggests) a renegade history of some sort, is in for a disappointment. I doubt if even linguistics majors -- and after hearing this, I'm deeply grateful not to be one -- are going to be able to follow McWhorter's thoughts without getting bored.
Among the top 5, and I've listened to approximately 50 audiobooks.
The author's seamless transitions from language to language, interesting anecdotes, and fascinating hypotheses.
I should look for another book by John McWhorter.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: A prodigious child
There are many memorable and interesting ideas presented in this book. Very well narrated, and an impressive mastery of many languages.
This is one of my favorite audio books.
McWhorter is a fun guy and a terrific lecturer and his reading of his book was completely entertaining.
Um -- a movie about the history of English? I think not.
I'm an English wonk and a writer myself and McWhorter's book on the history and genesis of the language was fascinating and enlightening.
Fantastic narration by the author! I loved every minute of it. A lot of thought provoking theories. If you're at all interested in the history of English, this is a must read!
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).
This is a book for aspiring linguists. It's interesting to know how the English language got so weird, like why some words change vowels to change tense (sing and sang) and some words just have something added at the end (wait and waited). The author explains the influences of Germanic, Celtic, Welsh, and Latin languages. It was also fascinating to learn that while we feel English makes sense and seems "normal," it's actually quite the oddball compared to other European languages. Other languages have two or three genders: feminine, masculine, and neutral. It's common in other European languages to refer to inanimate objects as either male or female. The author also gives examples of words like "ask", "question", and "interrogate" coming from Proto-Germanic, French, and Latin influences, respectively. Proto-Germanic words are simple, brute. French is polite. Latin is commanding. Hence, why there are so many Latin terms for law and legal contracts. If you don't have a deep fascination for linguistics, it's a little hard getting through the parts that cover the evolution of sounds and words from period to period or how the word "daughter" is similar with examples given in German, Norse, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, and a dozen other languages.
Anyone who has listened to Professor McWhorter's Teaching Company lectures knows that he is an excellent communicator who often has something worth communicating. Unfortunately, in this book he presents three or four ideas and spends hour after hour of your life repeating them to you. Apparently, if I was a professional linguist I would be bent over in paroxysms of rage at the heresies the author serves to us in this book. Since I am not, and everything sounds like common sense worked out over and over again, I was left counting the minutes until the end. Not recommended.
I would rank this book at the top of the list, considering I couldn't stop listening. I used to hate English because of the way it changed so radically from its earlier form. After listening to why it changed so much I have a new respect of our language.
History of Germanic languages.
Sometimes reading about grammar and linguistics can be boring but listening to it brings out the story so that it is extremely interesting. Grammar is history.
Footsteps of the English Language through 1000 years.
Not only does the Author tell us why English changed but where possibly the Proto-Germanic languages sprung from.
I selected this book because the title seemed cool, but the book quickly fell into the weeds for me - far too much grammar detail. I suppose I was looking more for the historical aspect rather than the grammar details. Narrator was enthusiastic; the content was just too dry for me. If you are a linguist, you will probably love this one.