From beginning to end, I was impressed by the Diamond Age. Stephenson seemed prescient at times (about everything except tape drive storage) and his wFrom beginning to end, I was impressed by the Diamond Age. Stephenson seemed prescient at times (about everything except tape drive storage) and his worlds were truly imaginative. I could not help but be drawn into the story of Nell, Hackworth, and the others. There is much going on here, and it builds into a strong story. Strangely for Neal Stephenson, the book could have used another hundred pages. (Someone must have told him that, and now he uses those pages in every subsequent book he's written, whether he needs them or not.)
I will admit it – I did not love all of this book. Plot gets messy, imagination overwhelms rationality. But the parts that I did love, the windows into storytelling bliss, were more than sufficient to outweigh the truly odd machinations of the final third. The genius of Neal Stephenson pops up over and over again, and I was always excited to see what was coming next.
P.S. In the dedication, one line reads: “Douglas (Carl Hollywood) Crockford” Yes, that Douglas Crockford. I wish I knew why......more
Enjoyable little book about the history of the English language and all of its many sources. An incredibly informative work for those who enjoy readinEnjoyable little book about the history of the English language and all of its many sources. An incredibly informative work for those who enjoy reading about the origin of words, and all those crazy little stories that have turned our language into what it is today.
As an added bonus, you suddenly have an infinite supply of little factoids to throw out about the history of various parts of English:
(these may count as spoilers?)
- In legal contracts, there are very commonly phrases with two words that mean the same thing, like "fit and proper" or "will and testament" or "cease and desist" or "null and void". This was due to a transition eight hundred years ago, when lawyers in England started switching from Latin or French to English in their contracts. Unsure if the Latin or French word meant the exact same as the English counterpart, and unwilling to leave it up to a court, they just used both words... and we have ever since.
- You often hear about all of those "collection" words that are often humorous -- "a gaggle of geese", "a muster of peacocks", "a sentence of judges" ...!? It turns out that most of these were probably invented by the prioress of the Sopwell nunnery in the late 15th century, and were included in The Book of St. Albans, one of the first printed English books.
- Often times, when there are multiple words in English that mean the same thing (or nearly so), it's because they originated from different sources. So, we have "ask" (Germanic), "question" (French), "interrogate" (Latin). "Fire" (Germanic), "Flame" (French), "Conflagration" (Latin). There are many examples of such triplets, and generally, any differences in meaning were introduced later, well after the words were standard English.
- Sometimes it's not the words that come from different languages, but the spelling. "Music" has been spelled over forty different ways in the last six hundred years; from "musiqe" and "musycque" and "moosic" to "mewsycke" and "misic" and "mwsick"... not really sure how to even pronounce that last one.
- If all this weren't complicated enough, in the 16th and 17th century, the English obsession with Greek and Roman times led to the Latinization of many common older words. Ever wonder why there's a "b" in Debt? It was spelled "det" or "dett" until this happened. Same with the b in Subtle, the l in Fault, and the p in Receipt, among plenty more.