Earlier today I finished reading Bill Bryson’s richly informative book about the English language; Mother Tongue.
Having identified the history and culture surrounding the English language as a chink in my subject knowledge armour, I started reading this book in the hope that it would expose me to some interesting and useful historic and linguistic facts. It is worth noting that I needed this exposure because I had always avoided such topics like the plague. Linguistics, etymology and all of the more factual or scientific sides of English never greatly appealed to me!
As I began reading however, I discovered that Bryson’s entertaining writing style rendered material that I had always assumed to be a tad too dry for my liking, much more exciting. True, there are many paragraphs in which Bryson sees fit to list large numbers of examples of a given phenomenon, and this can occasionally be a little heavy going. However, his tendency to concentrate on the more entertaining and amusing aspects of the material he is exploring, kept me reading from start to finish (even if I did skim over the occasional paragraph).
I particularly enjoyed the passages towards the end of the book where he looks at cockney rhyming slang. I was surprised by the number of words and phrases that I frequently hear and often use in my own everyday speech. Furthermore, these passages added some great depth to my appreciation of the writers of Only Fools and Horses.
I enjoyed reading Mother Tongue more than I had expected, and what is more, was surprised by how it subtly changed the way I listen and read. I feel as though I have broadened my knowledge of the English language and thus enabled myself to approach texts in a wider variety of ways.