©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)
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".
Melvyn Bragg is one of the actual persons that all the comedians mocking the ponderously educated English gentleman are modeling. Depending on your tastes, this book is either full of the lush and deep details and patriotic pride that feels like featherbed, or it is suffocating and tedious. The content is fascinating, but you best be patient. Give a listen to Mr. Bragg's podcast, In Our Time, and you'll get a sense of his style. He writes just as he talks. If you like his podcast, you will really like this book.
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.
I am a retired high school computer teacher. After years of tech reading, I have given up reading for listening while I woodworking.
This is a wonderfully written and fantastically read book about something that could have been dryly intellectual. It is so worth the read just to find out where many of our common phrases actually came from. Robert Powell executes the dialog magnificently.
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