Subtitled, ‘English and How it Got That Way’, this is typical Bryson wit and erudition at his best. I confess, I was tempted initially to disagree with some of his numbers on the speaking of English, but a quick gander at Google soon put me right on that issue.
The book is divided into 16 chapters plus an extensive bibliography and a very full index. Bryson tackles some diverse subjects, covering ‘The World’s Language’, ‘Where Words Come From’, ‘Good English and Bad’, and ‘Swearing’, amongst the many topics. With his usual good humour and in-depth research, he explains how language came about, how it developed and how English became the most widely-spoken tongue in the world today. He also looks at its future and, as usual, is optimistic about this in spite of the many commentators who seem intent on predicting decline, chaos and ultimate death for the language.
There were many places where I laughed out loud when reading. I learned things of which I was previously ignorant, had some of my most heartfelt beliefs brought into question, discovered things every writer and reader should know relating to the grammar police, and generally came away from the reading experience both enthused and educated.
It’s a great book and one everyone who declares an interest in their home language should read. I especially recommend that writers get hold of a copy and actually read it. It will be far from a waste of time, I promise you. Thoroughly enjoyed it!
For those who would like to explore the topic further, here are a few links to various sites on the subject: