HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold…
Loading...

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English (edition 2009)

by John McWhorter

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9013115,336 (3.75)60
Why do we say "I am reading a catalog" instead of "I read a catalog"? Why do we say "do" at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, author McWhorter distills hundreds of years of lore into one lively history. Covering the little-known Celtic and Welsh influences on English, the impact of the Viking raids and the Norman Conquest, and the Germanic invasions that started it all during the fifth century AD, and drawing on genetic and linguistic research as well as a cache of trivia about the origins of English words and syntax patterns, McWhorter ultimately demonstrates the arbitrary, maddening nature of English--and its ironic simplicity, due to its role as a streamlined lingua franca during the early formation of Britain. This is the book that language aficionados have been waiting for.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:GregsBookCell
Title:Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English
Authors:John McWhorter
Info:Gotham Books (2009), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Language

Work details

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John McWhorter

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 60 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I recently got obsessed with the podcast Lexicon Valley, which is currently hosted by John McWhorter. I went on a linguistics kick because of it (not my first!) and picked up a few of his books.

I could definitely read it in his voice, which betrays his undiluted enthusiasm for language. I first read [b: The Language Hoax|18579574|The Language Hoax Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language|John McWhorter|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1392022710s/18579574.jpg|26311591] three and a half years ago when it first came out, and he delivers on the anti-Sapir stance again.

That, however, was the least interesting part of this work for me. I was totally engrossed in his theories of Celtic influence with "ing" verbs and pointless "do." His thought process with Viking language acquisition is not only clear, the man tells a darn good story.

Will definitely be reading more McWhorter. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
John McWhorter gives us another lively, fascinating, informative look at language, especially the English language.

English is an offshoot of North Germanic, and in some ways those connections are obvious. In other ways, English is a bit weird even by North Germanic standards--and one section is devoted to making clear how very much the Germanic languages departed, early on, from the norms of essentially all the other Indo-European languages. He also gives us his theory as to how this happened.

But the main focus is English, and English has it's own weird traits. We often talk about all the vocabulary English has borrowed, or stolen, from other languages. McWhorter points out that all languages take useful vocabulary where they find it, and English is a bit unusual in having encountered so many different languages so early in its development.

What makes English different from other North Germanic languages and their descendants is grammar. One of the grammatical oddities of English is what linguists call "meaningless do." As in, "Do you know her?" "Do you want to go to the pool?" It's a word that is doing no grammatical work at all, and there is no equivalent in most Indo-European language, and specifically not in the Germanic languages most closely related to English. We use it many times a day, and never think it sounds odd, but it is odd. Where did it come from? Note: McWhorter is not a big fan of the theory that changes in a language "just happen" that purely by chance resemble structures in other, unrelated languages that happen to be nearby.

There's a similar construction in a couple of languages Old English had a lot of contact with, though, and McWhorter lays out the evidence in, I think, convincing detail.

The other notably weird thing about English compared to its relatives is the nearly-complete loss of the case endings all the other Germanic languages have. McWhorter also thinks the standard explanation for this is mistaken, and makes a very good case for his alternative explanation.

There's a lot more to this book, but these are some of the highlights. It's enjoyable, informative, and a really good listen.

Recommended. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 1, 2019 |
A short, fairly easy read. McWhorter essentially gives his mission statement for the work on the last page: here are some underground, indie stories on why English is the way it is. He's winsome in his approach, and his sense of humor really helps keep the book moving. And as for his arguments? Well, I can't argue with them, nor do I want to after what I read. (Judging from Amazon reviews, however, many are willing to argue with him.) ( )
  wordsampersand | Dec 6, 2018 |
Was a hard slog start to finish.

Written for linguists, not a mass audience.

Could have used a good editor.

Contains one or two ideas that made it worth reading.

I'd love to see the author debate a grammarian friend of mine about who and whom. ( )
1 vote NewsieQ | Oct 31, 2018 |
People who have followed me for a while will probably guess that I'm a fan of John McWhorter's work. I enjoy his common sense approach to linguistics, particularly when he applies it to the English language. And so this book was exactly what I wanted, an exploration of the influences on and development of English syntax.

One of my favorite quotes, from James Nicoll, is: "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." But no language is entirely about vocabulary as McWhorter shows us. If the only changes language ever made was stealing words from other languages, all spoken languages would sound very different from what we're used to. Language evolution is about syntax/grammar, about how speakers of other languages influence a language by getting it wrong for so long, and so pervasively, that the "wrong" syntax becomes the accepted one, and finally the "right" one. Ultimately Nicoll's comments about English miss the part where English got the crap kicked out of it by the Celts and the Vikings, but lived to tell the tale. In a new form of English.

One of the most interesting things about this book is how McWhorter makes his case for the influence of Celtic languages, specifically Cornish and Welsh, on some of the most basic English syntax, most specifically the "meaningless do." In English we ask things like "What do you want?" using do as... well, a kind of place marker. It has no real meaning; the action here is about wanting, not doing. And no other proto-Germanic language uses that construction. But Celtic languages do. And so in spite of the insistence of many linguists that Celtic tongues had no effect on English, McWhorter shows how they absolutely did, and in some very essential ways.

We know English was influenced by the Roman invasion, but what really kicked snot out of the language were the waves of Viking invaders, who dropped out huge hunks of English grammar when they settled in the islands, and began to intermarry with the locals. Gender markers? We don't need no stinking gender markers. Nominative, Genitive, Dative cases? Forgeddaboutit. Just, y'know talk until someone understands what you want. Their children grew up hearing Mom or Dad getting it wrong, and they did the same, and eventually English became simpler, and more direct.

McWhorter doesn't have a lot of patience with language purists as a result, and points out that none of them seem to want to change back to what English originally was, they just want to keep it from changing now. And that's nonsense. English, as with every other language on the planet, will change or it will die.

I always come away from one of John McWhorter's books with the sense that we speak a wonderful, vital, rich, and flexible language that will live on in spite of the people who want to freeze it in time. In 500 years it may sound different, but it'll still be English. ( )
  Tracy_Rowan | Apr 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Introduction

Was it really all just about words?
One

We Speak a

Miscegenated Grammar
The Welshness of English
The first chapter in the new history of English is that bastardization I mentioned.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

No library descriptions found.

Book description
A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, focusing on our strange and wonderful grammar

Why do we say "I am reading a catalog" instead of "I read a catalog"? Why do we say "do" at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, Our Magnificent Bastard Language distills hundreds of years of fascinating lore into one lively history.

Covering such turning points as the little-known Celtic and Welsh influences on English, the impact of the Viking raids and the Norman Conquest, and the Germanic invasions that started it all during the fifth century ad, John McWhorter narrates this colorful evolution with vigor. Drawing on revolutionary genetic and linguistic research as well as a cache of remarkable trivia about the origins of English words and syntax patterns, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue ultimately demonstrates the arbitrary, maddening nature of English- and its ironic simplicity due to its role as a streamlined lingua franca during the early formation of Britain. This is the book that language aficionados worldwide have been waiting for (and no, it's not a sin to end a sentence with a preposition).

Table of Contents
Introduction
Chapter One: We Speak a Miscegenated Grammar
Chapter Two: A Lesson from the Celtic Impact
Chapter Three: We Speak a Battered Grammar
Chapter Four: Does Our Grammar Channel Our Thought?
Chapter Five: Skeletons in the Closet
Notes on Sources
Acknowledgments
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.75)
0.5
1 1
1.5
2 9
2.5 2
3 36
3.5 13
4 76
4.5 7
5 21

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 139,680,424 books! | Top bar: Always visible