19 December 2010

The Mother Tongue; Bill Bryson

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That WayThe Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Usually I'd be going on about the Brysonian humor in the book, but unlike many of his works, The Mother Tongue isn't written for humor. Instead, it's an etymologists' delight: how English has evolved over the centuries. He explains the difference between a pidgin and a creole language, how (and why) colonel kept its 'r', and why British pub names are so odd, among many other fascinating tidbits. I even learned that there's a name for my not-quite-voyeuristic/Peeping-Thomasina behavior when walking down Brooklyn streets: crytoscopophilia.

The parenthetical citations are a little annoying (they're not in current MLA format, but then, the book was written a few years ago), and he repeats the whole "number of words the Eskimo have for snow" thing (semi-debunked by Language Log). But those are minor quibbles - if you love words or know someone that does, buy this book.

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1 comment:

  1. I love a good linguistics/history of English book. I've read some of John McWhorter's work and really enjoyed them, but I've never read Bryson. Thanks for the recommendation!