I really enjoyed this book, an entertaining and humorous look at the origins of the English language, its various dialects and the roles other languages have played in giving it such a diverse selection of words and spellings. The reasons why ough has so many different ways of being pronounced, and the reasons behind much of the illogical aspects of English.
Despite the good points I was a little disappointed in this book.
It seemed very dated, which in itself is not something I can really criticise it for, after all I doubt even Bryson can tell the future. Maybe it is just that I enjoyed his other books so much that this was a bit of a let down. And of course he says in the book that he doesn’t see any future for the Irish language past the start of the next century, so that was four years ago. And afaik Irish seemd to be going from strength to strength. Of course it is still a minority language, but Irish names are now hugely popular, not just among the D4-ers. Irish is becoming more and more part of everyday life, just take a look at today fm’s gift grub sketches; Radio Roy as gaeilge is a fav of mine, but even the quiz with Coilín Farrell is amusing.
Níl alán gaeilge agam, agus tá mo litriú úfaiseach (mar a dúirt Bosco), ach tá suim agam san teanga.
Not only does he say it is a dying language, but he describes it as gaelic (irish), but the only examples of gaelic he seems to use in the book are Scottish, which although similar is different.
But that is not really why I wasn’t too impressed with this book. It is the inaccuracies such as describing an English accent! Now there is as much an English accent as there is an Irish one, that is there isn’t one. The accent he was talking about, was, I think the BBC or upperclass accent. But the majority of British people do not speak like that, even those without a strong regional accent are more likely to have a slight hint of their area and not the “english accent.”
So I did enjoy the book, it has Bryson’s usual humour but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be
After 0.K., fuck must be about the most versatile of all English words. It can be used to describe a multitude of conditions and phenomena, from making a mess of something (fuck up) to being casual or provocative (fuck around), to inviting or announcing a departure (fuck off), to being estimable (fucking-A), to being baffled (I’m fucked if I know), to being disgusted (fuck this), and so on and on and on. Fuck probably reached its zenith during the Second World War. Most people are familiar with the army term snafu (short for “situation normal-all fucked up”), but there were many others in common currency then, among them fubar (“fucked up beyond all recognition”) and fubb (“fucked up beyond belief”)