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The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

The Mother Tongue (original 1990; edition 1991)

by Bill Bryson

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5,470111793 (3.87)176
Title:The Mother Tongue
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Harper Perennial (1991), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:Non-fiction, History, Linguistics

Work details

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (1990)

Recently added byHGCL, foolishhart, LynL, private library, dreplogle, adamren, spbernard59, briguybrn, AllInStride
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    A History of the English Language by Albert C. Baugh (Mrs.Stansbury)
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» See also 176 mentions

English (107)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
Excellent, amusing history of the English Language ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 16, 2016 |
A good overview of how english cam to be. It gets lost in the weeds at times and feels like a series of magazine articles that have been stretched into a book. Still it moves quickly enough that it is still interesting. ( )
  bhutton | Jan 27, 2016 |
I love the English language, and have a tendency to correct the grammar of newscasters and others in positions that require proper grammar. Of course, I wouldn't much like it if someone corrected my mistakes, but hey – that's not the point.

This is a wonderful book for English pedants. I found it fascinating. Others, those less enamored by language, might find it a bit dry in a few spots. There are plenty of facts and examples, lots of English anomalies, and quite a bit of humor. Education and entertainment all in one; what more could I want? Other reviewers have pointed out quite a few mistakes, but I'm not pedantic enough to have recognized those. So, yes, I'll take some of the facts with a grain of salt, but still enjoyed the book.

I listened to an unabridged audio edition of this, and it was very well read. However, I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if I had read the book rather than listened to it, or perhaps listened while reading. There are many examples of spellings that do not match the common pronunciation, and the narrator would spell the word and then pronounce it. My brain wasn't quick enough to imagine the written word before I was given the spoken one. However, having the spoken word actually spoken was a boon that the print book can't provide.

I do disagree with the author on some of his positions. I cannot accept that “infer” and “imply” can be used interchangeably. I am not going to dumb-down grammar because the casual version is increasingly accepted. So the English language will move on quite nicely without me, but a girl has to have her standards. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Jan 27, 2016 |
A veritable treasure trove of Etymology.
  danoomistmatiste | Jan 24, 2016 |
A veritable treasure trove of Etymology.
  kkhambadkone | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
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To Cynthia
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More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.
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It appears that there is no canonical title, but two distinct titles. If the canoncial title field is left blank, LibraryThing will continue to use the democratic method for populating everyone’s ‘your books’ listing (and maybe elsewhere) with the most commonly used title on LibraryThing. On 20 Jan 2014 Bill Bryson’s home page showed two distinct editions, the UK edition and the US edition, with two distinct titles. It appears that the US edition was published first but not verified.

US edition - The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way – 1 June 1990 (??)

UK edition - Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language – 1 Oct 1990 (??)

A 1991 UK edition was titled Mother Tongue: The English Language
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380715430, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Provides a humorous history of the English language covering such topics as spelling, pronunciation, swearing, and wordplay.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141037466, 0141040084

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