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#964 - 04/04/00 07:39 AM Re: Lexicography
I think that the particularly good thing about Bill Bryson's book is that it doesn't read like some kind of textbook.
It is particularly good for people like me who haven't studied the english language as an academic subject since the age of 15. (I studied maths - and once met one of my lecturers in the library - he said it was the best place to go to get away from the department as mathematicians never went in there.)
#965 - 04/05/00 06:16 PM Re: Lexicography
I enjoyed Bill Bryson's book, too. He does a good job of making the history of English accessible to the average reader. He has a witty style and a sense for what his readers will find entertaining. The book was something of a best seller in the US. In response to your claim (your bio) of finding the evolution of English fascinating, I think you would find Charlton Laird's little book, "The Miracle of Language" quite edifying. Laird is a lexicologist of the first order. I believe he studied in Edenburgh for a time. His book introduces the lay reader to the inner workings of language evolution, such as why it happens and in what ways. It demonstrates that although the process is usually imperceptibly slow, it is nonetheless inexorable. Laird incorporates many examples taken from his own research into English development and carefully leads the reader to a deep understanding of the processes at work. In spite of the somewhat difficult nature of the subject, he never loses sight of his reader. Laird’s style is a bit more scholarly than Bryson’s but he brings a sense of humor to the work, and has a gift for making his subject quite interesting.
Beware of other books with the same title. Laird’s “Miracle of Language” is, I believe, no longer in print, but it sold very well for some years, and so should be readily available for a few quid through http://abebooks.com, the best on-line source for used books. Most libraries should have it, although this book was published in the States and may not have found as warm a reception in the UK. Why this should be, I’m not sure, as the book is not biased toward American English.
In response to your bio, I tried to send you a personal note, but AWAD system reports that you are not accepting private messages. I guess you are too busy keeping up with email in your job. I have this problem too, but I always try to respond to personal email dealing with linguistics and lexicology. So far, I have not received many private missives, so it has not been a problem at all. At any rate, I can always turn off private messages later, if I find it too distracting.
#966 - 04/05/00 07:34 PM Re: Lexicography
Loc: lower upstate New York
Jeff, surely you're aware you're repeating yourself... on more than one board. No wonder some have turned off their 'private message' device. Long-winded pedant, heal thyself.
#967 - 04/07/00 04:12 AM Re: Lexicography
Thanks for the note Jeff, i'll look out for the book you mention. I'll turn messages on for a while. I am quite protective about my mail as I'm easily distracted and work from home (trying to fit work around coping with school-age children) - good earning time gets converted into flights of fancy with minimal effort!
#968 - 04/14/00 06:27 PM Re: Lexicography
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I am going to pick up the Bryson book mentioned. "A walk in the woods" was hilarious, anyone interested in hiking the AT would enjoy it - or anyone interested in a good laugh... laughed out loud. Funny I did not know Bryson had written on language... thanks for the tip.
#969 - 04/14/00 06:38 PM Re: Lexicography
I hope you enjoy the book. You lost me though. What's "hiking the AT"?
#970 - 04/14/00 07:37 PM Re: Lexicography
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Sorry Jeff, A Walk in the Woods is about Bryson's adventure on the Appalachian Trail. He set out with an old friend to hike all 2000+ miles of trail... you'll have to pick up the book to find out what happens...
#971 - 04/15/00 08:31 PM Re: Lexicography
Loc: Ohio USA
Bryson tells a funny story about his move from the UK to the US. He grew up in Iowa but married a Brit while he was working there. They lived in the hinterlands of England where there were not a lot of services available. The day they moved in to their new house (Vermont? New Hampshire ?) they were all tired at the end of the day and he picked up the phone and ordered pizzas and drinks to be delivered. His wife and kids were agape when the delivery man arrived. They had never had food delivered to their home before. His wife considered the event and said "We are never leaving this place."
#972 - 04/17/00 11:01 AM Re: Lexicography
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Ok, I'm asking for this as my Mother's Day gift. If all you
folks recommend it this much, it's got to be good!
#973 - 04/18/00 04:05 AM Re: Lexicography
One of the things I admire about Bill Bryson's work is his even handedness (oh no, is that a word?) in his opinions of both sides of the Atlantic - he manages to simultaneously enter both cultures and stand apart from them so he can see both worlds as an outsider sees them.
I have been arguing (mainly over large quantities of red wine) with a friend who swapped lives with me some years ago (she came to London, I went to New York) about the relative merits of Britain and the USA in the same vein as Bryson.
I think the conclusion we have come to is that the world as we know it at the age of 21 is pretty well it. It is an age of total certainty where a lot of one's self confidence comes from the knowing "the way things are done". She was convinced that the best ten restaurants in the world were in New York, I thought that Paris might have got a look in. I knew how to spell "colour", she didn't. I won't go into all the arguments we had - it had taken us the next nineteen years to realise that "different" does not necessarily mean "wrong" - perhaps that is what "maturity" means.
One of the good things about this group is that we are interested to find out more about different uses of language, and grown up enough (I think) to recognise the value of knowing more about other ways of doing things.
It was fascinating to read Bill Bryson's account of travelling back to America, having been a foreigner abroad to find that on returning he had become a foreigner in his own country.
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