- Also check our best rated Travel Book reviews
Made In America: An Informal History of American English (Bryson) Paperback – 2 Apr 1998
|New from||Used from|
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
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)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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. He is strongest when relating the characters and rise of individual eccentrics like Edison (he had 1093 patents in his name), J. Murray Spangler (invented the vacuum cleaner), Kodak, Goodyear, Rockefeller, Dr Kellog and weakest when giving us the origins of words like skidoo, fink and cahoots. Having made those points I am indebted to BB in that he seems to have nailed the origin of the initials 'O.K.' (page 103) and for telling me that keeping a stiff upper lip is an Americanism!
In addition to being a work of semiotics (I dont think BB would see it as such) and a work of history the book really is a superb work of reference - 567 pages with 18 of index and 22 of bibliography / chapter notes. Despite my slight crit., I would heartily recommend this book to all BB fans and to those who want to see how BB writes and how he sees his native language.
I enjoyed reading it but found it difficult to hold when relaxing... I must say Bill Bryson has immense knowledge and can impart it well... I had hoped to find a little more about the way Americanisms are creeping into the English language (Which I deplore.
Nevertheless, Made In America is still a totally compelling read and is actually highly educational if, like me, you are less likely to trawl through a more academic history book than to be drawn in by Bryson's highly readable (and frequently wryly humorous) style. Here, for example, he provides a relatively succinct (around 100 pages) set of introductory chapters charting the formation of the US, the drafting of its constitution and formation of its political system. He also concludes the book with a particularly interesting (list of facts-light) chapter on current (i.e. early 1990s) educational standards in the US, and whilst painting a rather negative (though ambiguous) picture, concludes (rightly I feel) that the US' highly diverse racial and cultural mix is likely to stand it in continued good stead in terms of its future prosperity.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews