Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recent Reads: Books on Words and Language

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but was unsure what the "angle" would be.  I have long had a fascination with the English language and how and why it is the way it is.  I am intrigued by the changes in it over time, by nuances and subtleties, by its travels around the globe, and by the fact some call it "the Wal-Mart" of languages. 

Part of my interest comes from being a teacher (of grammar, essay writing, English as a Second Language, business communications and so on), but I think these books have helped me more as a writer than as an English teacher. 

I have read several books on English and what it's all about, where it's been, and where it's going.  The five below are some of my absolute faves - the ones I will pick up now and again, and flip through just for fun.

Each is fun and fascinating, all are targeted at a general audience (my interest in language wanes when it becomes academic, and starts to feel like work rather than leisure), there are good bits of humour here and there, and each of the five has a good tone.

Check them out.  They helped me as much as any rule book/thesaurus/writing guide ever did... perhaps more.

Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Languages, by Mark Abley

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary,
by Simon Winchester
Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language, by Ruth Wajnryb
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by John Mcwhorter
Mother Tongue, by B. Bryson


  1. Wow, thx for sharing... i'll have to give them a read. sounds likei could learn a lot.

  2. If this is an interest of yours, you'd love one of our recent Dundurn books, Pilgrim in the Palace of Words.


  3. I will definitely check out "Pilgrim..." - sounds like it's right up my alley!

  4. Very interesting. Reading a fun book about language does sound like fun.

    Straight From Hel