The Mother Tongue

The Mother Tongue

English and How It Got That Way

eBook - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The noted humorist offers a journey through the intricacies, puzzles and quirks of the English language, tracing the history of English from its earliest origins to the present day
Publisher: New York : William Morrow, 2015
ISBN: 9780062417442
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive Media

Related Resources


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jun 21, 2017

I agree with some of the other comments that the book is outdated. At times it was clear the book was written before the ubiquity of the internet. It was still an interesting read. It provided an engaging history of the English language until shortly before the new millennium.

AL_LESLEY Nov 23, 2016

Written in Bryson's voice and filled with quirk and randomness it is as good as any of his books but having probably been written in the late 80s and published in 1990 much is simply outdated. He needs to do a revised addition!

Jul 08, 2016

Despite the age of this book, I find it still pertinent today. Own it, love it. The audio version doesn't do it justice. I never realized just how difficult learning English can be. Maybe I'll become more forgiving to those who seem to cling to their native language despite living in the US for ever so long & don't seem to make much effort to speak the language of the land.

Mar 14, 2016

Fabulous, fun, and detailed, this is a great look at the origins of our modern English language. It's a book I've read several times over and find a terrific amount of humor in even while being informative. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a nice overview.

Dec 25, 2015

Did you know? As the title states, Bryson takes the reader on an interesting journey of English and how it got that way. He provides us with a reasonably straight forward good overview of his topic along with a variety of interesting facts for the general reader. Some examples: "Language comes ultimately from spontaneous utterances of alarm, joy, pain, and so on." He states that children "can effortlessly learn two structurally quite different languages simultaneously." And did you know that the fall of Rome helped usher in our own tongue. Fascinating that Shakespeare "coined some 2,000 words and gave us countless phrases such as one fell swoop, in my minds eye, vanish into thin air, cold comfort" and countless others. And very interesting that "just forty-three words account for fully half of all the words in common use and that just nine account for fully one quarter in almost any sample of written English."
In addition, Bryson spends twelve pages explaining where words come from and has a full chapter on swear words. Overall a worthwhile read.

Jan 24, 2013

Bryson is shamelessly partial to English. He has produced a book that thrives on that partiality. It is humorous, thick with informative tidbits, and entertaining.

Nov 24, 2011

Good intro to language history, since he also comments on other languages, in comparison with English. More humourous and colloquial than one would expect / want from a "serious" language book.


Add a Summary

Jun 10, 2008

Bill Bryson's travel books are always fascinatingly hilarious, horrendous romps. He brings that same humour and attention to the oddest detail to this examination of the english language.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top