Made In America: An Informal History of American English (Bryson) 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you thought there is no such thing as 'American Culture' it's a must-read. Also, if you're a language enthusiast. Also, if you like the 50's America. Read morePublished 1 month ago by kpingvin
If you are a person who likes to study the differences between English English and American English then this is the book for you. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Wendy tinsley
This is both an account of American English (which is what I got the book for) and American history. Difficult to say which predominates. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Deepak
I like the author Bill Bryson and have read a few of his books, carefully choosing the title linked to the subject matter I am interested in. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Daniel K
I am not surprised to read that Bryson is the top selling non-fiction author. This is one of his early books. It is more than a history of English in America. Read morePublished 3 months ago by G. J. Weeks
nice book,good condition,not up to his highest standards though,far too much minor detail.Published 4 months ago by Mr. P. Freeman
I was expecting a deep dive into the American language and traditions, much along the lines of Melvyn Bragg's Adventure of English, but this is so much more. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Michael Galvin