With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson - the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent - brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience, and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can't) to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries.
©1990 Bill Bryson (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
Once I realized that the book is typical Bryson humor, I settled down to enjoy it. I had expected this to be a cheerful form of the History of the English Language, the sort of book like the Great Courses audiobooks by the Wheaton college professor, or one of the more academic books offered on audible, which are strictly accurate and still interesting. Bryson's book is more fun than accurate. Once I settled down and stopped trying to reconcile the things in this book presented as facts in with information in the more academic books I began to enjoy Bryson's book.
Its good to know this book is for humor, not so much for information.
This was an exceptionally detailed and fascinating history of the English language. Since much of the subject was about pronunciation it was quite helpful to listen to it rather than read it. The narrator did an incredible job pronouncing words that are either foreign or have not been spoken for centuries. He actually sounded like Bryson!
I noted that it was actually written in 1990 and with the development of the internet I wondered if Mr. Byrson would give us an updated version. So much has changed in the past 25 years.
Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads.
The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson. The book may be summed up by one of Mr. Bryson’s statements in the book, “[l]anguage is more fashion than science.” That is the bottom line, or the more ethereal learning from the book. Don’t get me wrong; this book is scientifically written meaning it takes data accumulates it and proposes a point concerning language and its maturation over the centuries. It then compares its findings to the observable and proves its conjectures as apparent from the observable. Now, if that all sounds dull, well it could be but for the fact this is written by Bill Bryson. Thus, what would have been leaden, is in fact, a most titillating and intriguing journey through etymology. A great read or if you prefer a stupendous listen to.
What is actually in the context of this novel? The history of English linguistic form studied by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence (about 700 A.D.) and then tracing its transmission, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages and reaching thoughtful conclusions about just why we talk in the manner which we do. Mr. Bryson makes this not only a learning experience but lots of fun!
The peculiarities of language are very very interesting. If you have an awareness or even a curiosity of words (for example do you like to read Shakespeare?) this book is for you.
I am not a linguist or student in the field so I can't comment on the accuracy of the information presented. However, Bryson does cite sources and I is up front about areas where there is on going debate or no clear answer. Narrator does a good job with what could be difficult material to convey without visuals.
The narrator is OK. Rather monotone, but OK.
This title was OK until about Chapter 5 when variant pronunciations were SPELLED out. List after list.
While a pleasant enough listen, I've been used to very funny books written and narrated by Bill Bryson. This book is true to its title and and has a solid narrator. Sadly though, it is more fact than funny. If you are a Bryson fan, definitely worth a listen. Just don't expect a pile of laughs.
With all the subtle pronunciations of different words evolving over time, it is much clearer to look at the words on a printed page of a physical book, as opposed to listening for such distinctions in an audio format (and I have both, so I know). That being said, all the anecdotes as well as the author's scholarship and his skill in description are still highly amusing, and informative, so I will recommend this book for anyone looking to learn about the English language, especially American English.
Wouldn't recommend: the sound quality of the reading is totally lacking in treble clarity, as if a graphic EQ were applied in post, cutting all frequencies above 2K. Also, the pacing is awful: no pauses after wighty thoughts, as if either a robot were reading, or a post-production algorithm, ("remove silences") was applied. Net effect: we are always wondering if the previous sentence was actually over yet?
Bryson's Short History of nearly Everything. Because it's comprehensive, and loaded with quirks and color to keep it interesting.
Richard Matthews. But I'm not sure it's McLaughlin's fault. It really sounds like somebody turned down the treble in post-production and used a "silence remover" because nobody would really read like that. Nobody would move onto the next sentence after saying something momentous, unless McLaughlin really was just "skimming" without hearing himself. Still, I suspect post-production laziness, not reader laziness.
Yes, study the Battle of Hastings even more!
It's a shame about the pacing/robotic reading. Bryson's writing is so animated, and he deserves equal animation from the reader.
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