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Made in America
Bill Bryson
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Made in America

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,808 Ratings  ·  575 Reviews
Readers from Toad Suck, Arkansas, to Idiotsville, Oregon--and everywhere in between--will love Made in America, Bill Bryson's Informal History of the English Language in the United States. It 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 Americ ...more
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Published February 1st 2002 by Chivers Audio Books (first published 1994)
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Paul Bryant
Bill Bryson is like the Abba of books. Everyone, your granny and your kid's teacher and your babysitter, and your mum's friends, everybody has a couple they really like and they probably have Bill Bryson's Greatest Hits on the cd shelf too. Safest present to give to someone you know very little about : a Bill Bryson book. Oh, everyone loves him Didn't he do Dancing Queen? We danced to Notes from a Small Island at our wedding. Oh did you - A Short History of Nearly Everything was "our book". I'm ...more
Petra X
I'm up to Benjamin Franklin and frankly Ben, I've had enough of you and this book. I usually like Bryson's writing style, but the fruity self-congratulatory tone of this is irritating. Also, I think if you are an American you might be a great deal more interested in the entire of history of America as experienced by European settlers than I am. No 'might' about it, of course you are, its your country. Me, sorry, but I couldn't care less.

Does that sound almost sacrilegious to you? Ask yourself th
Bryson’s Made In America is a usually fascinating but sometimes overwhelming conversation about the manner in which language has evolved in the United States over the last couple hundred years. If you imagine a guy at the end of the bar who knows way too much about a particular subject and, while he shares quite a few compelling and memorable facts with you over the course of an evening, eventually you forget them all because there are so goddamn many that you just want the guy to be quiet for a ...more
John Rachel
Sep 04, 2013 John Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am such a nerd! Why else would I find a book about "words" more exciting than "The Bourne Identity" or "Hunt For Red October". Then again, in my defense and to give enormous credit where it is due ... 1) I am a writer and words are everything to my trade, and 2) Bill Bryson brings such a fascinating and encyclopedic knowledge not just of etymology but a sensitivity to the historical and cultural environment within which language develops and evolves. His anecdotes are both engaging and informa ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I will admit that I didn't actually finish this book, but by 3/4 of the way through, I was totally bored with it. The first few chapters of this book were actually interesting in that they discusses the way that the first settlers in American spoke, how that gradually began to differ from the way people spoke in English and how different it is from modern American speech. However, after these sections, the book simply introduced a historical period or a new technology and basically listed the wo ...more
Nov 25, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by:
Shelves: read-in-2009

Specifically, the reader is invited to imagine a conversation between two reviewers, both of whom live inside my head. As will become evident, one is infinitely more crotchety than the other, possibly to the extent of bloody-mindedness. To keep guesswork to a minimum, I will alternate between regular and italic fonts.

This exploration of American English by Bill Bryson contains a wealth of entertaining anecdotal material that is unfortunately often bu
Lars Guthrie
What bothered me in "The Mother Tongue" was more irritating in this companion piece: the laundry lists of words categorized in catch-all bins. Exhausting for this reader. Also, this time, Bryson's blithe and breezy commentary seemed less witty and more shallow. He appears determined to shoot down myths of American cultural history, but looking at the footnotes, the research is weak. One example: Bryson dismisses Zane Grey as "a New York dentist who knew almost nothing of the West but refused to ...more
Dec 14, 2015 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Kim
Shelves: non-fiction, 1990s
Although I don’t live in America, it is obvious that they have had a big influence on the English language. Bill Bryson’s ‘Made In America’ explores the history of America and the effects it had on the language. I found the most interesting parts to do with censorship in America, from titbit becoming tidbit, cockroach becoming roach and to the extreme case of political correction which wanted to stop the use of terms like blackeye and blacksmith (but interestingly enough, not blackout). I feel I ...more
Hope McCain
Nov 10, 2013 Hope McCain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's what I liked about this book: It's an informal history of the English language in the U.S., so my first thought when I cracked it open was, How could Bryson possibly talk about words for over 300 pages?. I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth Bryson gets into the history that surrounds the evolution of our language. A book this long about nothing but word origins might have been a cure for insomnia, but Bryson was so good at using history and stories as context for how certain terms a ...more
Jan 06, 2016 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-re-read
Funny, interesting and informative. One fact that sticks with me is that every town in America had its own time until the railroad decided clock time needed to be standardized. What that has to do with American English I don't remember, but that's how Bryson's writing is--there are lots of fascinating side stories.
Jul 09, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In "Made in America", Bill Bryson romps through American culture as he uncovers the history of the English language pertaining to specific eras and segments of society. As one might expect, the formation of language peculiarities is an excuse for Bryson to tour the unusual in American history. There's great information in every chapter - per-marital sex was common and expected in Puritan America - along with litanies of slang. "'Noah's Boy' was a slice of ham . . .and that 'burn one' or 'grease ...more
This is the second book about the history of English by Bill Bryson I’ve read. This one, however, is laser focused on how English evolved once people started speaking it over here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A.

Turns out, just like all his other books, it’s a whirlwind of historical trivia. I personally didn’t enjoy this one as much as the previous book about English because the language itself wasn’t formed here, so this is more of a history of the unique vocabulary and idioms used here in the stat
Jan 07, 2016 Edward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Considering how crucial it is to our every day lives, we know precious little about language. Where certain words come from, why they are used in specific ways, etc. Take "OK" for instance--the most famous English phrase in the world, and perhaps American English's most lasting and pervasive contribution to English usage ever--and no one knows exactly where it came from. There are ideas, of course, ranging from a 19th century campaign slogan to a possible West African origin via slavery. But ast ...more
Tanmay Tikekar
Aug 25, 2015 Tanmay Tikekar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

As is the case with all Brysons, this is a delightfully light read, despite having a seemingly boring topic and more than 400 pages. If you're a language or history nerd, though, it's a veritable feast.

In many ways, parallels can be drawn between "Made in America" and 'A Short History of Nearly Everything'. Like in Short History, Bryson has kept the pacing engaging by not dawdling on needless intricacies of the subject. Virtually never is there "too much"
Nov 26, 2010 Guy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much, MUCH, MUCH more than a history of the English language in America! Bryson with magical and funny writing links the evolution of language with the evolution of culture, science, recreation, food, politics. His controversial or almost heretical debunkings of accepted history are supported with an extensive bibliography of the sources.

The debunking is endless! Barely a page was turned that didn't leave me amazed at how much I don't know, and just how far away from documented history is the
Aug 21, 2011 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, as it took me about half of it to finally grasp the concept, is a history of pretty much how the US came to be, from the pilgrims and the Mayflower and then right down to the space age.

For me the book for pretty slow starting. The chapters about the founding fathers of America was pretty tough because a lot of the writing relied upon prior knowledge of the subject, of which I have very little, but past that, this book is typical Bryson.

Funny whilst unbelievably informing this book is
Jan 18, 2015 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is advertised as a history of the English language in the United States. But readers who primarily want to know about the trends of English in America, about its broader causes and effects, will only feel satisfied with this book about 50% of the time.

When Bryson uses vocabulary examples to support larger narratives or points, he's brilliant. When was American English adapted from British English (losing 'doth' and 'liveth'), how was it altered by different eras of immigration, and wh
This book is kind of like A Short History of Nearly Everything About American History, structured around etymology. In other words, it's awesome. One of the more enjoyable Bill Bryson books I've read, mostly because I don't have to read about him whining while traveling. I'll always hang onto my copy of it to reference.

Here's just a few of the myriad of things I learned from this book:

- The term "ham actor" was coined because lesser actors used to use ham fat to remove their make-up, rather tha
Mar 19, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Bryson is a humorous author who typically write gently comic travel books, that draw heavily on his bewilderment at modern life, and its' incongruities. On occasion he changes directions, writing books about history, and Shakespeare, for example, while maintaining his humorous approach to the subject matter.

This books is one of this direction changes. Here, he looks at the history of English in his native America. He addresses a variety of issues, and looks at a variety of times. So he talk
Jan 20, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the past, I've commented on Bryson's somewhat affected reading style, but, admittedly, his style perfectly captures his nuanced comments and cynicism. He does NOT read this book, and I immediately missed him! I believe this is the same narrator who led me through three volumes on the Civil War. His enthusiasm just doesn't get Bill.

That aside, this book has so much fun trivia that I have decided to buy a hard copy. It is all about American language and how our verbiage originated. It is set u
Jan 20, 2012 Jimyanni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
This book is a wonderfully entertaining look at the development of the American version of the English language. I generally find Bryson's style enjoyable, although there have been exceptions (notably, "Lost Continent") and this one is almost as good as "A Short History of Nearly Everything". It does beg for an update, given that it was witten in 1994, and not only have there been many words added to the lexicon since then, but some of his comments on the health of the American economy might nee ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
This book took me forever to read, as it was super-dense with delicious information that forced me to pause and memorize. So many wonderful words, separated by so many commas! Yum! The author does something in a clever way, much like a movie called Vantage Point that nobody remembers: he picks a point of view, discusses it from its start point to its end point in history, then rewinds to begin the discussion again with a different point of view. This method of review is excellent, as were the he ...more
Rita Ciresi
May 20, 2016 Rita Ciresi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In spite of the fact that it's all over the map and careens off topic on a regular basis, it's by BILL BRYSON! Which means it's a good read.
As much as I love Bill Bryson's writing, I found it reeeeeeeeeally difficult to get through "Made in America." I learned a lot of interesting facts and the book did clear up some misconceptions I had, but it didn't make up for the fact that some of the sections in this book were incredibly boring. I know that the book was primarily supposed to be about the origins of everyday words and phrases, but sometimes it felt like Bryson went a bit overboard. It felt like I was reading a dictionary, and h ...more
Apr 18, 2010 Jakob rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Brysons book "Made in America" is a mix of Us history and a concluding why Americans are Americans. It is a very thick book and I personally had a hard time reading it. Some chapter are very interesting and funny. But most of the time it gets very long and boring, when Bryson keeps explaining, including personal stories, trying to make one point. But when he finally gets there you are confused. It is not easy to read because there are very long complicated sentences. But over all the "Made ...more
Jun 05, 2015 L. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A reader approaching Bill Bryson's `Made in America' might well have conflicting expectations. Knowing that it's about language, the potential reader might expect the delightfully funny explication of English found in Bryson's brilliant `Mother Tongue.' On the other hand, the fact that Bryson here treats language in America, specifically American culture, might make the reader wary after Bryson's 1989 dark hatchet job on his birth country, `The Lost Continent.'

I'm happy to say that `Made in Amer
Todd Stockslager
Jun 04, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Review title: Anecdotal history of America and its English
Bryson, before he was so well known (tellingly, there is no author bio on the back cover or inside the book), writes a casual stroll through American English. The only drawback is that his obvious delight in and liberal scattering of offbeat anecdotes sometimes make it seem as though the "informal history of the English language" subtitle is just an excuse for an anecdotal history of the US.

So while not exhaustive, it is informative and f
David Roberts
Mar 24, 2014 David Roberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book I read to research this post was Made In America by Bill Bryson which is an excellent book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book is an affectionate and quite witty look at the development of the English language and American culture & the history of the United States. Many people regard Eric the Red the viking of first discovering America and he did discover Greenland and Iceland with the former having a colony of 4,000 vikings for many years. One problem was in both places ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, audible
I listened to the Audible version read by William Roberts. This is a book on the history of the English language in the United States, but there is a lot of historical information thrown in, too. I was puzzled by the choice of this particular narrator--this is a book about language and sometimes specifically about pronunciation, but Roberts had an odd accent I couldn't identify (he sounded a bit like a pompous professor), and he mispronounced more than one word. "Poo-berty" for puberty, saying t ...more
Nov 15, 2008 J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book about the English language. In depth research which explains the origin of many words and idioms that we use in American English. You'd think a book like this would be a little dry but the writing style keeps your interest and even makes you LOL on occasion. One of the best things about this book is it includes a lot of history along with the language. I actually learned quite a bit of history thanks to this book. It also cleared up a few historical misconceptions that I had.
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Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first t
More about Bill Bryson...

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“Because of social strictures against even the mildest swearing, America developed a particularly rich crop of euphemistic expletives - darn, durn, goldurn, goshdad, goshdang, goshawful, blast, consarn, confound, by Jove, by jingo, great guns, by the great horn spoon (a nonce term first cited in the Biglow Papers), jo-fired, jumping Jehoshaphat, and others almost without number - but even this cautious epithets could land people in trouble as late as the 1940s.” 5 likes
“By the 1920s if you wanted to work behind a lunch counter you needed to know that 'Noah's boy' was a slice of ham (since Ham was one of Noah’s sons) and that 'burn one' or 'grease spot' designated a hamburger. 'He'll take a chance' or 'clean the kitchen' meant an order of hash, 'Adam and Eve on a raft' was two poached eggs on toast, 'cats' eyes' was tapioca pudding, 'bird seed' was cereal, 'whistleberries' were baked beans, and 'dough well done with cow to cover' was the somewhat labored way of calling for an order of toast and butter. Food that had been waiting too long was said to be 'growing a beard'. Many of these shorthand terms have since entered the mainstream, notably BLT for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, 'over easy' and 'sunny side up' in respect of eggs, and 'hold' as in 'hold the mayo'.” 4 likes
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