I marked this book down one star because I had the feeling that Bryson's facts were a bit dubious. I have since googled this and it seems there are many people who think the book is a little flimsy on the facts. He apparently relies too easily on folk etymology (ordinary people's opinion about the origin of words) which is very entertaining but not correct from a linguistic or factual sense.
I found the chapter dealing with languages like Chinese one of the most fascinating only to learn that some native speakers thought Bryson's "facts" about Chinese to be very inaccurate!
Still, a very entertaining book (four stars!) but beware that Bryson is no linguist and while very amusing and enjoyable, his stories about language need to be taken with a large dose of scepticism! The book is, however, a very fun starting point for anyone exploring language as an exciting subject.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this book for me was how it did shed light on the constant development and change in English. Rules of grammar today were not there yesterday, and yesterday's rules are often discarded. No-one who reads a book like this can ever again be confident that there is one and only one "correct" usage or spelling in English - language changes constantly and we sometimes need to relax on the "correctness" of things in case we miss out on the creative opportunities presented by bending the rules a little. Or a lot. Much of what is English today started out as slang, a mistake, or pure invention (as in the case of Shakespeare who invented more words out of thin air than anyone!).
Highly recommended for its entertainment value.
The paperback binding of this edition is nothing special, the paper average pulp quality, though not prone to cracking the glued spine if due care is taken....Continua
Despite the good points I was a little disapointed in this book.
It seemed very dated, which in itself is not something I can really criticise it for, after all I doubt even Bryson can tell the future. Maybe it is just that I enjoyed his other books so much that this was a bit of a let down. And of course he says in the book that he doesn't see any future for the Irish language past the start of the next century, so that was four years ago. And afaik Irish seemd to be going from strenth to strength. Of course it is still a minority language, but irish names are now hugely popular, not just among the D4-ers. Irish is becoming more and more part of eeryday life, just take a look at today fm's gift grub sketches; Radio Roy as gaeilge is a fav of mine, but even the quiz with Coilín Farrell is amusing.
Níl alán gaeilge agam, agus tá mo litriú úfaiseach (mar a dúirt Bosco), ach tá suim agam san teanga.
Not only does he say it is a dying language, but he describes it as gaelic (irish), but the only examples of gaelic he seems to use in the book are Scottish, which although similar is different.
But that is not really why I wasn't too impressed with this book. It is the inaccuracies such as describing an English accent! Now there is as much an English accent as there is an Irish one, that is there isn't one. The accent he was talking about, was, I think the BBC or upperclass accent. But the majority of British people do not speak like that, even those without a strong regional accent are more likely to have a slight hint of their area and not the "english accent."
So I did enjoy the book, it has Bryson's usual humour but I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be...Continua