David's Reviews > Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States

Made in America by Bill Bryson
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's review
Feb 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: history, linguistics
Read in February, 2011

This is a hugely entertaining book, with more bits of trivia than you can shake a stick at. The subtitle is An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. While the subject of language fills up about half of the book, the other half is not really about language at all; it is a collection of anecdotes about American history. Bryson blends the subjects of language and history together rather well, but it sometimes seems like the same strategy that various TV dramas use nowadays; multiple plots running simultaneously. This strategy helps to keep people with short attention spans engaged, and it may be necessary for the average TV viewer--but is it really necessary for a well-documented, well-written book? Probably not, but it does help keep up the book's momentum from slowing down.

I did learn all sorts of amazing things; jumbo jets are named after a famous elephant! The Smithsonian Institution did not recognize the invention of the airplane by the Wright Brothers until 1942! Shopping carts were first introduced into a grocery store in Oklahoma City in 1936; customers were reluctant to use them, so the manager hired people to push the shopping carts around, pretending to shop! Every page of this book is dripping with these interesting tidbits that will keep you talking at your next cocktail party.
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