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“Vastly informative and vastly entertaining…A scholarly and fascinating book.” —Los Angeles Times
With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson 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.
Who would have thought that a book about the English language 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 rhapsodise about “the colourless 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.
About the Author:
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up there, but has spent most of his adult life in Britain. He has worked for a number of newspapers, including The Times and the Independent. His books on the English language include Mother Tongue and Troublesome Words, both published by Penguin.
Bill Bryson is the author of several bestsellers including The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There, Notes from a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods, Notes from a Big Country, Down Under, A Short History of Nearly Everything, One Summer: America 1927 and his memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. His most recent bestseller is The Road to Little Dribbling.