- 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)
Made In America: An Informal History of American English Paperback – 2 Apr 1998
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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)
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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
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great read with Bill Bryson's usual humourous observations.Published 2 months ago by Angela McNiven
Half way through - interesting - but not the side-splitting humour I expect and get from his travelogues.Published 2 months ago by charlie shearer
Another informative humorous and enjoyable read from Bill Bryson.By delving deeply into the American culture he gives the reader a valuable insight into our American cousins.Published 3 months ago by Robert Bull
Not in the usual Bill Bryson style, I found nothing amusing in this book.Published 6 months ago by Eddie Ramsdale
One of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. Fascinating for its linguistic comment and content as much as the insight into American History (the real and the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Recycler69