Bryson, Bill "Mother Tongue" - 1990
I like Bill Bryson's travel books. He has also written a few about language and they are just as good and funny. Having learned English as a foreign language myself, I found a lot of information, though I am sure anybody with English as a mother tongue might find it even more interesting. Having lived in England as an American, the author has a lot of experience with the variety of his language. The subtitle of this book is “English and how it got that way”. Bill Bryson introduces the origins of the language as well as the history of its growing into a language internationally known and used. He explains the very complex and difficult etymology, the dialects and all the quirks any foreigner loves to hate: the spelling and grammar. But he also introduces everyday language, including swearwords. If you want to know more than just the irregular verbs ... read this book.
From the back cover:
"How did English, 'treated for centuries as the inadequate and second-rate tongue of peasants' become the undisputed global language? How did words like shampoo, sofa and rowdy (and others drawn from over fifty languages) find their way into our dictionary? In this revealing and often hilarious book, Bill Bryson examines the mother tongue and explores the countless varieties of English and the perils of marketing brands with names like Pschitt and Super Piss. With entertaining sections on the oddities of swearing and spelling, spoonerisms and Scrabble, and a consideration of what we mean by 'good English', Mother Tongue is one of the most stimulating books yet written on this endlessly engrossing subject."
I love all of Bill Bryson's books. Find a link to my reviews here.