Top positive review
on January 31, 2006
The English language has great diversity, perhaps nowhere as strong and colourful as across the spread of North America, the largest geographic landmass of English-speaking predominance in the world. Like any living language, the 'standard' is not always the one used in everyday speech and communication. The written language itself has differing standards, all at variance in one form or another from the spoken word. Because of this, much of the language gets lost over time. One of the things that makes novelists like Mark Twain memorable is that they captured elements of the informal language, the spoken language, in their text pages - something fairly rarely done, but something that can resonate with the readers.
Jeffrey Kacirk states in his introduction that it is this lost and vanishing element of the language that he concentrates upon for this book - not a surprise, really, given that the title of this book is 'Forgotten English'. Part of Kacirk's interest came from his upbringing, in which he lived in several different regions of the country, each geographically and linguistically distinct. Kacirk's introduction traces the development of the language in certain ways, including the fact that what are often considered 'Americanisms' often originated in the British Isles, falling out of use there but thriving in North America. With the advent of modern media (talking motion pictures, radio and television), the re-introduction of American speech patterns as both commonplace and acceptable has occurred, with occasional bumps.
The phrases Kacirk has accumulated here include pieces that contain the flavour of life in North America. 'Often containing an abundance of metaphor, simile, and common sense, these distillations of practical experience are easily bandied about by those whose education has not displaced their native intelligence.' These have a tendency to be blended over time into the mainstream, if they survive at all, particularly in an ever more homogeneous media environment. However, language as a living entity continues to grow in wild patches here and there, and Kacirk's collection helps to show some of the more interesting patches in the garden of the English language.
This book is one of several Kacirk has written (another good one is 'Informal English'), all of which illustrate the diversity and vitality of the English language.