©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
A masterpiece of meticulous linguistic and historical research made intelligible to the interested laymen. So exquisite is the elocution of the narrator, so impressive is his mastery of several spoken languages, that it must be heard, not merely read.
This book was such a disappointment. Perhaps the second half would have been better but I couldn't get there. I am shocked that it received high ratings from others - what a disappointment. I want my credits back!
This suffers in comparison to the Great Lectures series on the History of the English language. Those lectures kept me awake and interested. This was soporific rather than an adventure. (An anesthetic, balmy, calming, deadening, dozy, drowsy, dull, hypnotic, mesmerizing, narcotic, nodding, numbing, opiate, quietening, sedative, slumberous, snoozy, somniferous, somnolent, soothing, tranquilizing).
The author did a wonderful job writing an entertaining history of the English language and the narrator truly adds to the experience. Hearing the comparisons between English words to the words in other languages from which they evolved is wonderful. I'll admit that as an American I'm learning a fair amount of British history along the way as well.
The book answers the fundamental question why English outshines all other languages and why it is the "reserve linguistic currency" of the civilized world. Bragg does this not only by (pedantically) charting the sequential evolution of the language but also by describing its singular adaptability to its changing habitat, up to the modern day. A people gets the kind of language it deserves. A good companion piece would be Churchill's "A History of the English Speaking Peoples".
I have a physical copy of this book, which I found quite heavy going - however, Robert Powell's narration made all the difference. He manages to get his tongue around Old English so well that I actually understood the words, even though they are so different to the English of today. The tale of the growth of the language is fast paced and exciting, with many new insights. I did find the odd list of words quite tiresome at first, until I understood why they were included.
Overall, I think this is an excellent book for anyone who loves the English language, and wants to understand its roots
The section of the book on early English is very good. Unfortunately, the section on American English was so poorly researched that I had to stop listening to the book. Many of the derivations claimed for American words were urban legends and were wrong.
I expected a bit more on the mechanics behind the formation of our language, and hoped that it would delve into the various accents of regional dialects. There was some of that there, but not much and only intermitedly. Also, the author repeatedly made analogies that made it sound as though English were a person ( stuff like "and so our language preserved the norman conquest and overcame the conquerors", hooray), which often served as the whole explanation for why English formed the way it did. I found that irritating.
Very interesting. I thought I had a good understanding of the origin of English but I was clearly wrong. This work is aimed at a UK audience and the author's use of the collective "we" to mean the English people can be a little disconcerting at times for an American audience. Still I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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