Title: The Mother Tongue
Author: Bill Bryson
Length: 245 pages
How many times am I going to spend entire reviews singing the praises of Bill Bryson, bowing down to his mage-like powers as a wordsmith? Not often enough.
The Half Price Books Humble Book Club read Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman for our September discussion. GREAT book, but I had already read it. That being the case, I plucked another linguistics title by an author I adore: Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue.
As with any typical Bryson piece, the book was well researched, enjoyable to read, and all the information was cleverly shared. Bryson is witty, almost snarky even – but far less snarky in this book than, let’s say, A Walk in the Woods. I take great delight in clever snark. And yes, I just chose to use snarky as a noun…
Although by describing Bryson’s work as snarky makes him sound much more irritable than he truly is. On the contrary, Bryson always seems a bit jovial to me. Sarcastic wit written with a broad smile, and possibly rosy cheeks.
If you love languages, English, history, factoids, dictionaries, evolution of words, or all of the above – The Mother Tongue will keep you fascinated. If you enjoy witticisms, sarcastic commentary, clever jokes, good conversations, intelligent thought, and possibly your college English professor – Bill Bryson is the guy you want telling you all there is to know about “English and How It Got That Way.”
He’ll talk about Latin and Gaelic, the French and German. He will discuss Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the Oxford English Dictionary. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to swearing and the origins of some of our favorite – and not so favorite – expletives. He’ll recite palindromes and tell you all about London Times Crossword Puzzles (which I desperately would like to get my hands on)… Also, if you ever felt bad about your spelling, this book will give you a full history on how it’s not you, it’s English.
I turned the last page and as it always is on the last page of a Bryson book, I’m already scouring the shelves for another Bryson title. Can the others live up to the awesomeness I just read? I’m not so sure.