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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language Paperback – 1 Oct 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 450 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; ISBN 0-140-14305-X edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141040084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141040080
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (450 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Who would have thought that a book about the English language would be so entertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson--a zealot--is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodise about "the colourless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence, that carries the book.

Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: "This product will self- destruct in Mother Earth."), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Not only fascinating but extremely funny (Angus Deayton)

The sort of linguistics I like, anecdotal, full of revelations, and with not one dull paragraph (Ruth Rendell Sunday Times)

A gold mine of language-anecdote, information, curiosity. A suprise on every page... enthralling (Observer)

Delightful, amusing and provoking... A joyful celebration of our wonderful language, which is packed with curiosities and enlightenment on every page (Sunday Express)

A delightful survey - though with its good humour, wealth of anecdote, and boyish enthusiasm, "romp" would be a better word. (David Crystal)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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brilliant and really funny
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Disappointingly boring. Gave up very early in the book despite a few attempts.
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Scintillating, absorbing and unputdownable! Loved every chapter each of which produced a laugh, a gasp of amazement or an urgent to learn more.
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Entertaining and thought-provoking. It's a shame that it is out of date, being written at the end of the '80's.
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A magical journey with enlightenment and humour.
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Funny and informative. Excellent
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I am interested in language development and looked forward to further insight. This book reads like a series of student essays, sprinkled with source attributions to give weight to specious statements. I found the statement linking the Basque language with a native Amerindian language quite fatuous and I am afraid that coloured my attitude to some other 'facts'. The swivelling between standard English and American English was disconcerting.
Mr. Bryson's pontifications on some issues bordered on arrogance and his level of language was arcane to the point of jargon in several instances.
This book fell short of light entertainment and was woefully inadequate as an academic tool. I could not recommend it.
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Outdated, inaccurate, and opinionated, but worst of all boring.

The first Bill Bryson book I gave up on.
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