Friday, October 30, 2009

Linguistics + Bryson = My Kind of Book

Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson

Have you ever wondered about the origins of Americanisms such as "lunch" and "cafeteria"? Or maybe you're interested in words that originated from the movies or sports. Bill Bryson gives you a whirlwind tour of all this and more in his "informal history of the English language in the United States."

Beginning with the Pilgrims and making his way through both chronologically and thematically to recent times, Bryson has a way of highlighting the humorous aspects of history and linguistic quirkiness of our language. Some of interesting tidbits (note: a word that was originally "titbits" and changed in order to be less offensive) I learned included:
  • Englishmen bemoaning Americanisms entering the language is nothing new
  • the Pilgrims had three or four different names and types of mush
  • during the American Revolution, people were not unconcerned with spelling, but merely had more variants to choose from (and even argue about!)

I'll have as much fun recommending this book to family and friends as I did reading it!

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