Harper Perennial paperback, 236 p.
(#41 for 2007, Non-Fiction Five Challenge- #4)
With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, bestselling author Bill Bryson brilliantly 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.I’ve long been interested in languages (even though I’m not very adept at picking up new ones), and I’m often compelled to pick up these types of books. (Whether I get around to reading them is another story completely!) This was my first book by Bryson and I can understand why people enjoy his travel books so much. His humour showed itself here in places and made me chuckle a few times while reading.
As for the historical information, some of it I’d learned back when I studied Linguistics so it wasn’t new but it was nice to be reminded and there was plenty of language trivia that was both amusing and interesting to read. I did wonder about some of the ‘facts’ and apparently the book does contain many factual errors, some of which can be found HERE. Published 17 years ago, it’s now also slightly dated in the chapters dealing with modern English. I’d be interested to hear his thoughts on texting, for example.
I do find it interesting that this book isn’t listed in the books section on the websites of either his US publisher or his UK publisher.
Overall it was a sometimes amusing overview of how English became what it is today, but there are probably much better, more accurate books out there on the subject. I have a couple more of Bryson’s books in the TBR mountain range and I do look forward to getting to them at some point.
My Rating: 2.5/5