Linda's Reviews > The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
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's review
May 24, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: language, non-fiction

I found this history of English to be quite readable and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. While somewhat dated, it still has interesting information. I've read about the general history of English more than once, but I certainly wasn't bored reading Bryson's version. I especially appreciate this book for the chapters on names, swearing, and wordplay, and also about the use of English around the world, as these were topics that I haven't read much about in other books on English. That said, I sometimes found myself skimming the plentiful details supplied, looking for the main idea sentences. I would also take issue with the spelling chapter. Bryson's premise is that English spelling is pretty much capricious and inconstant; I would argue it's a bit more systematic than it first appears. I appreciate that a word's history and meaning are revealed (or at least alluded to) in its spelling. Still, It's rare that I read a non-fiction book like this one in one sitting, but I couldn't put it down.
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