Made in America: an informal history of the English language in the United States by Bill Bryson

I love books that make me feel smart, especially if those book make me laugh.  Do you find it easy to find books like that?  I certainly don’t.  When I do, that’s something to talk about.

Let’s get talking.

My obsession with Bill Bryson naturally stems from the fact that he is a brilliant author.  I also feel we have a bit of a connection. After all, he is an American living in England.  I go to England for university!  He was chancellor of Durham University.  I was going to go to Durham!  I’d love his writing no matter what, but these little overlaps make me appreciate it a drop more.

Made in America is a more niche than his other books.  At Home is a history that  everyone can relate to on some level.  A Walk in the Woods is good humor and travel writing that will appeal to anyone with wanderlust.  This one, however, discusses the history and development of specific words.  While they are words we all use, it does take on a slightly linguistic-slant that won’t be universally appealing.

The book turns the history of American English’s peculiarities into an interesting narrative by following the introduction of words along the timeline of American history.  Bryson begins telling the tale from the arrival of the first settlers, describing how their language probably didn’t look much like any present English we know today.  He then moves around the country, changes subjects and paints a fascinating portrait not only of language in America, but also of the changes in American culture over the years.

Although this book isn’t for everyone, it describes every realm and aspect of society, giving the topic the widest audience possible in the best sense.  There’s car discussion, food discussion, television discussion and historical tidbits that will make everyone raise their eyebrows and turn the page.  You’ll find yourself citing it all the time as the phrases pop up in conversation.

Made in America doesn’t follow the same pattern as Bryson’s other books, but has Bryson’s infectious interest that will make any one interested in writing and language keep flipping the pages.  If you’re the littlest bit interested in the formation of English or the differences between American and British society, you’ll certainly find Made in America a compelling read.

What do you think is the strangest Americanism?  Britishism?

1 thought on “Made in America: an informal history of the English language in the United States by Bill Bryson

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Made in America by Bill Bryson (3/5) | Taking on a World of Words

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