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Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States Paperback – October 23, 2001
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"Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It"
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Made in America will supply you with interesting facts and cocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, that Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credo has its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor Walter Matthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that the supposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints," by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a license for premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussion of American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is that it offers much, much more.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
This last section is added in August 2004: I did, indeed, use the book with my junior class in my last year of teaching in Ohio before "retiring" and moving to Tennessee. It was very well received by the advanced readers and less so by those for whom any book assignment is, well, an assignment. Nonetheless, I'm back teaching in TN and am considering using the book again this second semester. (D.R. Powell at Hendersonville HS-since I didn't intend to make the original review anonymous)
His historical treatments are similarly spotty. He notes at least one Native American document that appears to have influenced the language of the Constitution, but is blissfully unaware of the numerous state constitutions and articles of confederation and other historical documents from which ideas and language were lifted. His reading of the first and second amendments are laughingly ahistorical.
In discussing the songs associated with wars, he remarks that unlike the Civil War and WWI, WWII had no memorable songs! He also states that "bought the farm" is a phrase from the Vietnam War, something that would surprise anyone who's ever seen a film about the RAF in WWII. (I believe the phrase is actually a bit older than that). And he thinks "pilot" came from early aviation, when it's a very old nautical term.Read more ›
Bryson takes you along for a history of the United States and how our language has changed from English into its current form today. The other half of the book contains chapters dealing with specific topics such as names, the movies and cooking. Each of the subjects deals with the words and phases that entered the language at the time or involving the subject.
There are some reviews that question Bryson's accuracy on some of the items, and this book is not filled with Bryson's usual humor, but the writing is enjoyable with just the right amount of wit throughout. Make sure you check out the chapter dealing with Puritan morality!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had high expectations based on the other Bryson book. Didn't need to hear him apologize for teacher unions nor the lecture on global warming.Published 1 month ago by Scott T.
I loved this book. Full of interesting background on the history of words in America. Bryson is brilliant and a terrific researcher and writer.Published 1 month ago by Gibbswp
Bill Bryson is a genius! I have yet to read a book of his which does not enthrall, elucidate, make me laugh out low and provide lots of chuckles. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Paul in Phoenix
Bryson has written a wonderful book about the emergence and development of the English language in America. This book will engross those who love history, language, and culture. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Nancy Schmitz
I love Bill Bryson books and humor but this one was different. I found it a bit boring, to say the least.Published 3 months ago by Donna Marie
I enjoyed this book but it was not my favorite Bill Bryson book. It's interesting and has a lot of trivia about the U.S. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Charlie C.
Well written and entertaining history of the English language in America. I learned a lot I did not know about how words developed and adapted. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Blofeld's Cat