Barry's Reviews > Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter
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Dec 29, 2009

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Read in December, 2009

I like the way McWhorter thinks and I really enjoy the material. My lower than expected review rating stems from the limited areas he covers.
He addresses the "do" and "ing" of English thoroughly, so thoroughly that it felt like the 400 Blows! I got to feeling "enough already!" (which is not an English construction).
Instead of beating the Celts to death over and over, I would have liked an analysis of other situations where large numbers of non-English adults found themselves forced to speak English and as a result schlepped their words and grammar into English. The Yiddish in New York is a good example with some subject/verb order changes and translations of phrases that previously didn't make sense in English. Pidgin English would be another good example. These could help prove his assertions that adults corrupt a language in their efforts to speak it - like Puerto Rican Spanglish changes Spanish.
The hypothesis about Semitic languages brushing the Indo-European "p" into an "f" and added the "th" was interesting. But what happened to the thorn and edth and why did they go away in Ye Old English?
Good start, however, I think McWhorter could have done better and covered more ground. i have listened to his lectures and interviews and he has more interesting stuff than he showed here.
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