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Who would have thought that a book about English would be so entertaining? Certainly not 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 rhapsodize about "the colorless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every 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 a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: "This product will self-destruct in Mother Earth."), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.
Bryson's blend of linguistic anecdotes and Anglo-Saxon cultural history proves entertaining but superficial. "While his historical review is thorough. . . he mostly reiterates conventional views about English's structural superiority," said PW. "He retells old tales with fresh verve . . . but becomes sloppy when matters of rhetoric and grammar arise."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
As I have written in other reviews Bill Bryson is far and away my favorite living author. But here he takes on an excessively dry subject and even his wit cannot make this much of... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Robrt F Dunphy
A little too dry for me. It could have been better organized, it "jumped around" too much. Not sure if I will read any more in this series.Published 3 days ago by Richard Goldin
If you are really interested in the evolution of language throughout the world, this is the book for you. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Judy
This is a romp through a bunch of semi-related facts about English. It's mildly interesting but there is no intention of helping the reader understand why any of the curious... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Experienced seminar leader
As someone who does a lot of writing, this book was up there. Since high school, I have been fascinated by the origins of the English language, its comparison to others, and how it... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Reader 47
Bryson is one of my favorite writers. His work is extremely well researched and he presents some pretty complicated material in a very approachable way. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Cynthia Morrison
Love Bryson, loved this book. So informative, and written in true Bryson fashion - witty and succinct. My wife is a retired English lit teacher, and she loved it also. Read morePublished 18 days ago by The Dickster
Bryson's books are always good. I am a fan of trivia and his books are full of it. I got this to read on my Kindle while on the exercise bike. Read morePublished 22 days ago by B. Moseley
Another funny, entertaining, and enlightening book from Bill Bryson; interrupted it to read something else, but I picked it back up and didn't miss a beat. Read morePublished 23 days ago by DoubleM