Tag Archives: The Mother Tongue

WWW Wednesday, 15-March-2017

15 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Again, nothing with Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. Husband has been traveling a lot lately, which is very unlike him! I’m usually the one out and about, haha.
I think I read five pages of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler on Friday and I was really excited about it. Still reading has been bogging me down a lot and with Spring Break this week (WOO!) I’m hoping to get back to this a bit.
I made myself read a good chunk of Night Soldiers by Alan Furst over the weekend. I gave myself a no-TV rule and it really worked! It’s still going to be tight to finish it before it’s due, though.
At my library board meeting, I was reminded that we have an author coming to visit soon, David Maraniss, who will talk about his book Once In a Great City about Detroit. I got an audiobook copy of this one over the weekend and started in on it right away.

Recently finished: Was able to finish up The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson during a long workout on Saturday. I’m so relieved to have finished something! My review went up Monday so please go check it out!

Reading Next: Again, nothing planned. I think I’ll need a physical book next and I’ll grab whatever looks right off of my shelf. I’m going to let myself enjoy the freedom in that for once!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (4/5)

13 Mar

I wanted to read this book when I thought Bryson was a little more dry and scholarly and a little less fun and quirky. I thought it would be more systematic instead of picking up on the fun parts of language history. I read another of his books, realized I was mistaken, and still wanted to read another because they are fun and entertaining. They can make a long drive or a long run much less terrible.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson

Other books by Bill Bryson reviewed on this blog:

Made In America

Summary from Goodreads:

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson–the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent–brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world’s largest growth industries.

Listening to this book was a joy. I didn’t have to worry about the different pronunciations Bryson talked about or read them in the phonetic alphabet because the narrator did it for me! A lot of this book talked about the language’s shift from old English to modern English, the words we lost and gained along the way, where words come from, and how they’re preserved or dropped. It’s clear there were a few resources Bryson relied heavily on for certain chapters. He organized the book well and was able to explain how certain words come to be in a very amusing way. I wasn’t ready for this book to be funny and I got looked at while running at the gym for spitting out a few giggles.

There were two parts of the book I really enjoyed. The first was the detail of how British English and American English came to be pronounced differently. Bryson detailed how English was before the American Settlers came over and then how the two changed since then. I ‘ve always wondered why we speak so differently. The theory that they will one day become so dissimilar as to be different languages is interesting, but as Bryson points out, modern technology has Americans, Brits, Australians, and South Africans speaking to each other via the internet so frequently, that future differences are less likely to happen.

My other favorite part was talking about names and how that developed. It’s fairly easy for me to see where my name, Stevens, came from (likely a shortening of Stevenson, ‘Steven’s son’) but it was fun to hear about other last names. Bryson also went into details about place names and I was happy to hear so many Michigan cities mentioned. Of course, Detroit coming from the French was mentioned, but I was glad he also mentioned Milan. I first saw the city name written down and asked, “Where is Milan?” pronouncing it like the Italian city. I got a stern look and was reproached, “It’s MY-lan.” With a long I. Same with Lima, Versailles, and Charlotte (other cities I drive by in the Midwest pronounced LYE-ma, ver-SALES, and shar-LOT).

The chapter on the dictionary was the least interesting to me. It did emphasize how quickly the language was evolving, but I thought there was a lot more history on a few men in this chapter than any developments in the language. I would have liked to see a shorter chapter on it and maybe a bit more focus on how the dictionary preserved pronunciations or changed them.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen McLaughlin. Kudos to him for having to pronounce so many words in a variety of languages and accents. One of the later chapters had to deal with word games in French and he rambled them off like a pro. If he was off with any of his pronunciations, I’m none the wiser because his Spanish was spot-on when used and the little I know of Italian and German was well done, too.

Bryson’s focus was on how the language has changed, but he also talked about things that had stayed the same. I appreciated hearing about how words had changed very little since Shakespeare’s time. He also focused on how it could evolve going forward which was almost alarming. English words are being adopted into most world languages mainly due to innovation and English words being used for things and concepts that did not exist previously. If you know another language, think of words for technology and new concepts. In Spanish, I’ve heard both ‘el internet’ and ‘el márketing’ used even if there are Spanish words for these things (el red y el mercadotecnica). Bryson points out that Japanese does this the most. With English words infiltrating foreign languages and English becoming the common language for business, we might start to lost the beauty of other languages and in fact, start to lose speakers of those languages.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bryson hides some jokes in his writing, like when talking about where the last name ‘Bush’ came from. I enjoyed these small jokes tucked into the book. I’m not sure how well they would work in fiction, but in non-fiction, which can be dry, Bryson kept it interesting and fun. I really appreciated this in a book that easily could have been bogged down in details.

I enjoyed this book and I’m sure I have loads of fun facts to spring on people now. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way // by Bill Bryson | The Aroma of Books

WWW Wednesday, 8-March-2017

8 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


libraryCurrently reading: No movement with Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. This might sit on my list for a while.
I keeping creeping forward with The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. I’ve had to do a lot of reading for school during my lunch breaks so that hasn’t given me a lot of time there to read. I’m still enjoying it and hope to keep making forward progress.
I’ve made steady progress with The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. It keeps me interested during long runs, which is nice. I think I still have four hours left, though. It’s not great to listen to while cooking and cleaning so it’s been slower than I’d like.
It’s been slow going with Night Soldiers by Alan Furst. I wish this was moving faster, but I don’t like it enough to sit down and power through it. There’s something about the writing style which stays a little above the character’s feelings but rambles that’s slowing me down.

Recently finished: Nothing this week! I’m so sad to report that. I’m not even close on any of these books to think I’ll have one finished for next week. Maybe Bryson, but I’ll have to get in some long runs for that to happen!

I did post a review of You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black. Please go check it out! I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I still have nothing planned. I think I’m going to reward myself by picking a book off of my shelf that has been tempting me for a while. I have it narrowed down to two but I don’t want to commit yet! I think a short one will be welcomed after Night Soldiers.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 1-March-2017

1 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


nightsoldiersCurrently reading: Nothing on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. We don’t have any trips planned for a bit (yay!) so it might be a while before we’re able to get back to this one at all.
I’ve squeezed in a bit of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler while my husband was at a convention and I was eating dinners alone. I’m really enjoying it, maybe the favorite of my current reads.
With some long runs, I’ve made decent progress with The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I love linguistics so this book is fascinating for a language nerd like me! It’s a bit slow, but I’m learning a lot from it.
I started Night Soldiers by Alan Furst! It came in at the library and it’s a log longer than I expected. I’m thinking I might have to renew it and because it’s an ILL, I only get one renewal. Time for some speed reading!

youre-not-doingRecently finished: I finished up You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black. It was a fun, sarcastic read from Black, exactly what I was expecting from him. I think I’ve got my fill of comedian memoirs for a bit so I probably won’t read another for a bit, but I did enjoy them. My review is likely coming tomorrow.

I posted my review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling on Thursday. I’m hoping I surprise no one when I say I gave it a full 5 out of 5 stars and completely loved it. I was thinking of a book-to-movie review, but they’re exactly the same so in this case, I’ll pass.

Reading Next: No plans. I’m not even halfway through any of my current books so it seems premature to make guesses. We’ll have to see what the future brings!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 22-February-2017

22 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.youre-not-doing


Currently reading: We didn’t make any progress on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs during our trip this weekend. We had a few things on our minds and used the time to talk instead. There are worse things in this world!
Not much with The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler because I’ve been out-of-town so much but I’m still really enjoying the book and I hope to keep moving on it!
I started another comedian memoir because I needed something light to read over my vacation. I grabbed You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black from my shelves. I enjoyed his commentary on the VH1 I Love The… series and I watched Wet Hot American Summer last summer and remembered how funny he was. The book is a great delivery of his dry humor and I’m really liking it.
I also just started The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I’m glad Bryson seems as fascinated by the English language as I am! Sometimes I find myself wondering how much money a linguist could make because it’s so fun!

fantastic-beastsRecently finished: I finished Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling last Thursday. It was a super quick and fun read. I’m super excited for the movie to come out so I can watch it again from home this time! I’ll likely post a review tomorrow.
I also finished The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom on Thursday, it was a big day for me! This was a good audiobook and I really liked that Albom narrated it himself. I posted my review on Monday so please go check it out and see why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

I posted one other review, Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars, please check it out!

nightsoldiersReading Next: I know I’ve been saying it for weeks but I picked up Night Soldiers by Alan Furst from the library last night! I’m going to start in on this one as soon as I finish Black’s book, which I hope is really soon!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Recently Added To My To Read List

14 Feb

Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these posts! I’ve only added five since then and I think I’ve taken more than that off. Something is finally going in the right direction for my list! Let me know if you’re familiar with any of these and if there are some I might want to reconsider.

  1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Do I really need to explain this one? I think I need to explain more why it wasn’t on my list until now. I apologize to be slow to pop culture.
  2. Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bill Bryson: I’m going to start line editing my novel soon, and I want to learn more about how people spoke in the 1920s. My library has this on audiobook and I’d love to hear what Bryson as to say about the development of language since the 20s. Is my nerd showing? I’ll cover that, oops.
  3. The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way by Bill Bryson: This just seemed like a logical addition to the above. This book focuses on English inside and outside of the US.
  4. Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian: This author will be coming to my area at the end of the year, so my book club added it to our list for the summer. The story is about a man whose daughter accidently shoots him at their home.
  5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: A woman in my book club recommended this, saying she thought it seemed like something I’d like. I’m game. The story is about a homeless girl who has a talent for flowers and choosing the right flowers for the people who need them.

Wow, just five books! This is awesome for me. Any winners? Any duds? Let me know what you think of them in a comment, Reader! Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time, write on.