The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way

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Description

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson—the acclaimed writer 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’ll be able to talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, steadily uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into probably the most world’s largest growth industries.

Who would have thought that a book about the English language would be so entertaining? On no account this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson–a zealot–is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodise about “the colourless murmur of the schwa” with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between each sentence, that carries the book.

Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about an issue, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. In addition to tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: “This product will self- destruct in Mother Earth.”), Bryson regularly takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and all the time shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson—the acclaimed writer 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’ll be able to talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, steadily uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into probably the most world’s largest growth industries.

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