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Made In America: An Informal History of American English Paperback – 2 Apr 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New Ed edition (2 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552998052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552998055
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,155 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.


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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.

Review

"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)

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Inside This Book

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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

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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By A Customer on 6 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
The strengths of Bill Bryson are his wry and good natured sense of humour and the depth and application of his research. In Made in America (subtitled, I believe, in the US edition as An Informal History of the English Language in the United States) he brings that research to the fore as he relates the development of language in the USA. In doing so he adds to his pantheon of books that cover science, history, geography, travel, home life and auto biography. Fans of Bryson will know the successful formula - non fiction story telling wherein the reader is carried along in an informative, folksy and interesting journey as BB relates and comments on the subject. When I say 'folksy' and 'interesting' I do not mean to imply prosaic or necessarily genial. He brings to his narration a fine sense of history and place that escapes many of the travel writers and social commentators I have read.

In Made in America the book provides a man in the street history of the colonisation, expansion and growth of the USA. The title chapters (there are 21) show his approach .... The Mayflower and Before, Making a Nation, We're in the Money; The Age of Invention, The Movies, Politics and War, Welcome to the Space Age; 1950s and Beyond. The book doubles as a conversational history of the USA from the ground up. The influence of English (as spoken by the Pilgrims when they stepped ashore in 1620), German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Chinese and, of course, the native languages spoken by the indigenous population, can be seen as BB describes the onward march to that common language which WSC said separated us.

The one criticism I have of the book is really a comment on BB's obvious enthusiasm for the subject. I found often that he listed far too many ways of pronouncing this word or spelling that word.
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