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



my notes:


One of the beauties of the English language is that with even the most tenuous grasp you can speak volumes if you show enough enthusiasm.

American and British English are drifting apart so rapidly that within 200 years the two nations won’t be able to understand each other at all.

Most speakers of other languages aren’t aware that such a book as a Thesaurus exists.

‘spaghetti’ means ‘little strings’.

The aborigines of Tasmania have a word for every type of tree, but no word that just means ‘tree.’

Mankind did little except procreate and survive for 100,000 generations.

Many scholars believe that classical Latin was spoken by almost no one—that it was used exclusively as a literary and scholarly language.

Over half of all Japanese sentences have no subject.

No country has given the world more incomparable literature per head of population that Ireland.

The condition of having many meanings is known as ‘polysemy.’

A contronym is the same word with contradictory meanings. (Cleave, Sanction, Bolted)

We seldom stop to think about it, but some of the most basic concepts in English are naggingly difficult to define…To deal with all the anomalies, the parts of speech must be so broadly defined as to be almost meaningless.

Resistance may in the end prove futile, but at least it tests the changes and makes them prove their worth.

More is known about the history of English than any other language in the world.