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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knowing, entertaining, just a tad dated
When Bill Bryson doesn't have anything else to do (yeah, right), he might want to consider issuing a revised edition of this entertaining but somewhat dated book. As he so ably points out, language is protean and much has changed in the last 15 years since he worked on this. In addition to new research and revelations that might correct or amend the text, there is the...
Published on March 12 2004 by C. Ebeling

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Do not trust the facts in this book
This book is a quick read -- entertaining and light -- but no one should trust the facts that are tossed around in it. Bryson's knowledge of languages other than English is shaky at best, and he makes countless mistakes in his various attempts at translation. He also has a very superficial understanding of grammar (as evinced by Chapter 9). On p. 142, he claims that...
Published on July 7 2004

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5.0 out of 5 stars The best collection of trivia about the English language., Sept. 30 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Mother Tongue (Paperback)
Written in an engagingly familiar way, but full of informative and interesting facts about the complexities of English. Essential for anyone who has an innate curiosity interest about the origins of the way much of the world's population speaks and writes
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the choir, March 23 2004
D. P. Birkett (Suffern, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mother Tongue (Paperback)
I enjoyed this myself but I think the readership for this must mainly be people who are already interested in languages. It has rather a lot about such things as vowel shifts in English between fourteen hundred and fourteen fifty. To convert someone into a Bill Bryson addict I would turn them on with one of the travel books. One thing that carries over from his other books is the British/American comparison. He is a mine of information and insights about this. It's also the only language book I've read that fully covers the dirty words and cuss words.
I don't know how the experts feel about its accuracy. I note that he describes William Jones as English. His nationality is relevant because the fact that he was a Welsh speaker was one of the things that enabled him to recognize the relationships between the Indo-European languages. On that subject I take issue with Bryson's implied endorsement of the Economist's criticism of subsidizing Welsh. If you really want to eliminate useless relics of pre-Saxon Britain why not start with say Stonehenge. You could probably save the taxpayers millions of pounds. by bulldozing the place, putting a useful road through, and selling Salisbury Plain off to developers.
I don't know about the alleged thirty Inuit words for snow. I've seen that one debunked and confirmed. Maybe Inuit in Alaska have diffrent words from ones in East Greenland.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bryson, you're an ass., Sept. 29 2003
Michael Sutcliffe (Morristown, New Jersey United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mother Tongue (Paperback)
I am an undergraduate student in linguistics, and as a gramarian, as well as someone who has a genuine interest in languages, of any sort, I must say that this book represents the lowest and least informed type of linguistic literature to date. Bryson has no concept of science, meticulous research, or humility. Besides his overly glaring inaccuracies about the languages of some Alaskan peoples (they aren't called Eskimos anymore, Bill), there are numerous other, smaller slipups which harm the book's credibility as a well-researched treatice greatly. Most notable among them, for me, was when Bryson glibly stated that the language, Irish Gaelic, has no words for "yes" or "no", so its speakers must resort to expressions such as "I think not". On the contrary, the words, "ta/" and "ni/l" are as often used as not for these expressions. And was I the only one who noticed that in deliniating the list of words Shakespeare gave us, Bryson used obseen twice? Also, much of this information is not only inaccurate, but hopelessly dated (Australians hardly use expressions such as "cobber" anymore). In short, I was so disgusted with the book that I only read about half of it before becoming thoroughly unable to continue. This is rubbish; read something by Stephen Pinker if you want something not only based in scientifically proven fact, but presented by a professor with degrees in the subject.
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Mother Tongue
Mother Tongue by B Bryson (Paperback - Sept. 1 1991)
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