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Made In America [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 April 1998

Bill Bryson turns away from the highways and byways of middle America, so hilariously depicted in his bestselling The Lost Continent, for a fast, exhilarating ride along the Route 66 of American language and popular culture.

In Made in America, Bryson de-mythologizes his native land - explaining how a dusty desert hamlet with neither woods nor holly became Hollywood, how the Wild West wasn't won, why Americans say 'lootenant' and 'Toosday', how Americans were eating junk food long before the word itself was cooked up - as well as exposing the true origins of the G-string, the original $64,000 question and Dr Kellogg of cornflakes fame.

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Made In America + The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America + Notes From A Big Country
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Product details

  • Paperback: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (2 April 1998)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0552998052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552998055
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years ,but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.

Photography © Julian J

Product Description

Amazon Review

Bill Bryson's "Informal History of the English Language in the United States" is, in a word, fascinating. After reading this tour de force, it's clear that a nation's language speaks volumes about its true character: you are what you speak. Bryson traces America's history through the language of the time, then goes on to discuss words culled from everyday activities: immigration, eating, shopping, advertising, going to the movies, and others.

Made in America will supply you with interesting facts and cocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, that Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credo has its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor Walter Matthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that the supposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints," by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a license for premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussion of American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is that it offers much, much more.


"A tremendously sassy work, full of zip, pizzazz and all those other great American qualities" (Will Self Independent on Sunday)

"Immensely entertaining... a sharp eye for odd facts and amusing anecdotes" (Michael Sheldon Daily Telegraph)

"The book is a triumph. Bryson carries it off by his joie de vivre, his unadorned prose and the sheer width of his snooping beneath the skin of the American dream" (Literary Review)

"Funny, wise, learned and compulsive" (GQ)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
The image of the spiritual founding of America that generations of Americans have grown up with was created, oddly enough, by a poet of limited talents (to put it in the most magnanimous possible way) who lived two centuries after the event in a country three thousand miles away. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More nuggets than a gold rush 14 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
A very impressively researched and entertaining book. It sets out as an exploration of what happened to the English language when it got to North America, and achieves this goal admirably. However, it also provides a wealth of insights into the growth phases and catalysts which caused the US economy to grow to the super power it is today. This aspect of the book provides (perhaps unwittingly) many valuable historical perspectives on recent internet- driven developments - and how they may pan out. I read 'Mother Tongue' first. 'Made in America' is a perfect follow up.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Offers a lot in a single book 28 Jan 2004
To be honest, I always associated Bill Bryson with light travel books, so I was pleasantly suprised to find his refreshing writing style applied to etymology; not always the easiest topic to entertain with!
Having said that, there is so much more than etymology. The anecdotes are amusing, and you will find yourself repeating them to everyone you know. The work that debunks urban myths is fascinating and, as is often the case, fact is stranger than fiction; some of the truths behind words and phrases are truly special.
The lists of when words were first used did not appeal to me personally, although I am perfectly willing to believe that there are people out there who would be interested, but they are fairly easy to skip.
The one thing I take away from this book more than anything else is respect for American English. As a young Englishman, I have been pre-conditioned into a certain disregard for 'Americanisms'. Yet after reading this book, you will see how useful many of these words are, and the ones we choose to attack are very limited. I think the book is worth reading for this information alone.
In conclusion, a good read that you can take your time over.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect mixture of words and wisdom! 26 Mar 2001
By A Customer
As an American having spent years in both England and Ireland, I thoroughly enjoyed this book exploring the American usage of the English language. Bryson, as only he can, relates many of the untold stories of the founding of the United States and how as a society we morphed the language to fit our ever-changing needs. He takes us on a journey through the events that enlivened and matured our language into what it is today.
Interesting, light-hearted yet immensely learned- it is the type of book you'll be referencing and discussing at dinner parties for years to come. Brilliantly written to appeal to readers on both sides of the pond.
While different from the travel books that Bryson is so famous for, this new genre of writing is no less wonderful.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chivers Audiobook Complete & Unabridged 26 Aug 2006
Format:Audio CD
For a description of the book itself see the paperback version. Suffice to say if you are reading this entry then you probally want the audiobook specifically. This really is complete and unabridged and comes as one of those chivers audio packs you sometimes get in libraries aimed I think at the hard of sight. It is not in a standard CD case like regular audiobooks. This is read as are 'The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America' & 'Notes From a Big Country' by William Roberts. Comes on 14Cd's divided into approximately 5 minute chapters on each for ease of finding your 'bookmark'.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most read book on my bookshelf 2 Aug 2002
I read first read this book a few years ago but still find myself going back to it time and again. My copy is so well thumbed it is falling apart. Billed as a history of American English, this book is much more than that. It is one of those books which entertains and informs. I learned more about American history from this book than I did from a whole set of textbooks on the topic. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone. It is his best book by far.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 23 Sep 2004
This is quite an engaging read. Approaching primarily it because of my interest in language and also in American culture, I was not disappointed by this work which offers the reader information on such diverse topics as travel, immigration and American food. Principally of a linguistic focus, it traces some of the etymological history of some of the more common (and uncommon) terms in the American and English languages. A worthwile read, and enjoyable too.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great! 6 Jan 2003
By A Customer
I think I read too many English boarding-school books when I was a kid. At least I got a snobbish attitude about the superiority of British English over American English from somewhere.
This book was a revalation, it showed me that my snobbishness was just that, and without foundation. Things that I had firmly believed, like that 'trash' was an Americanism, were swept away (and now I think, what would it matter if it were?).
Made In America is full of fascinating detail. I couldn't stop myself from reading passage after passage out loud, and I've bought copies for gifts. Anyone with an interest in language, history, or culture would get a kick out of this book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of American language 20 Jun 2003
Made in America was the first of Bills non-travel books that I read. In this book Bryson traces the history of the American language and how modern U.S English has evolved from the British English that the original settlers and immigrants would have spoken. Bill deals with many linguistic theories and looks at many words that come from other languages and are now part of modern U.S English. Bill also looks at other things like why there are so few ascents in America and yet every region in Britain and in fact in most parts of Europe has a distinct ascent.
Along the way Bill also looks at a lot of American history in his usual funny and informative style. Looking at American cinema the history of roads and even the story of Dr Kellogg the inventor of Corn Flakes and it turns out Dr Kellogg was the only crunchy nut. These historic parts of Made in America as well as being very good to read are also essential to the purpose of the book looking how Americans had to come up with new words for there new inventions and contraptions.
All in all a good read historic, funny and informative.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not finished yet
Published 18 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars As always but this is the pick of the crop
What can I say its bill Bryson, ok my fav BB book is mother tongue but this is a close 2ed ,
Published 20 days ago by MR R HINGSTON
5.0 out of 5 stars his books on English IMO are even better and explode a lot of myths...
know for his travel writings, his books on English IMO are even better and explode a lot of myths about language, history and culture. Extremely readable
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like history or just want to have a good read ...
I book I have read over and over through the years. Bill Bryson takes you on a fascinating tour through the nether regions of american history by hanging each period on the words... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nigel Bond
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by gibson
4.0 out of 5 stars American history as of now
Love Bryson's books and this one is up there
Educational certainly but so much more and of interest to residents as much as visitors
Published 4 months ago by Andrew M. Dickson
4.0 out of 5 stars The Origins of the Common Language....
The strengths of Bill Bryson are his wry and good natured sense of humour and the depth and application of his research. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Adrian Maxwell
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Usual Bill Bryson standard though not as witty as some of his other books. Lots of interesting facts about America and where it came from but not a flowing read.
Published 11 months ago by barmy
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Educational And (At The Same Time) Hilarious
This 1994 work by Bill Bryson is probably the most impressive (funny and educational) non-travel book I have read by this most infectious of authors. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Keith M
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive history of the mangled English language.
I felt the final chapter let this down, being a summary of how the education system in America isn't all that bad. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. M. G. Blake
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