Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mother Tongue

Well, in keeping with me posting about books I've read, here is another. Actually "another" by Bill Bryson. I think it may be his easy to read style and my "lazy when reading" style that attracts me so.

Anyways, Mother Tongue is a decent read about the origins and growth of the English language. Although not my specialty (shhhhh, don't tell my students), it was still very informative.

here is an excerpt:

Words change by doing nothing. That is, the word stays the same but the meaning changes. Surprisingly often the meaning becomes its opposite or something very like it. Counterfeit once meant a legitimate copy. Brave once implied cowardice -- as indeed bravado still does. (Both come from the same source as depraved.) Crafty, not a disparaging term, originally was a word of praise, while enthusiasm, which is now a word of praise, was once a term of mild abuse. Zeal has lost its original pejorative sense, but zealot curiously has not. Garble once meant to sort out, not to mix up. A harlot was once a boy, and a girl in Chaucer's day was any young person, whether male or female. Manufacture, from the Latin root for hand, once signified something made by hand; it now means virtually the opposite. Politician was originally a sinister word (perhaps, on second thoughts, it still is), while obsequious and notorious simply meant flexible and famous. Simeon Potter notes that when James II first saw St Paul's Cathedral he called it amusing, awful and artificial, and meant that it was pleasing to look at, deserving of awe, and full of skillful artifice.

Interesting stuff, no?


Aaron said...

Try "Made in America," another of Bryson's books on the English language. Actually, I wonder if it isn't an overlap of sorts with "Mother Tongue." Anyway, it was one of my favorites of his, along with "A Short History..."

Juggy said...

Yeah, I had noticed that book and wondered how closely related it was to this one.

Anonymous said...

Hey, do you happen to have the Oxford English Dictionary lying around? Great stuff, man. I love etymology. I took a class in college on the history of the English language. Same sort of thing.

Juggy said...

Hey Stumptown!

No, I don't have it. I would love to get a PDA with all the bells and whistles like that, but as for the actual books, man, who has room in Korea!? lol

Anyways, I often go here for info for some of my classes.