Good morning!  Just when you’ve fooled yourself into believing that you’ve read a lot, you’re surprised by yet another gem. That’s how I came across Bill Bryson – his writings would have remained a mystery to me, had a friend not gifted his book, The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way. The book talks about the history of the English language in such a lucid manner that it keeps you engrossed throughout. The interesting examples and satire with which he uses to drive home the facts are delightful. The book makes an enjoyable read, it informs the readers of the complexities of English grammar and discusses the dialects and the spelling reforms of English language; at the same time, it also entertains by pointing out the idiosyncrasies (peculiarities) of the English language in a funny way.

His other book that I recently read is A Short History of Nearly Everything  and it truly is a ‘short history of nearly everything,’ for even someone like me who comes from a totally non-science background could understand those difficult terms (paleontology…). The interesting part is that he made the discussed terms sound so interesting that I wanted to know more about them, which is how it should be. The writer should generate so much interest in his subject that the readers are left begging for more.

Some of his other books are:

-A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

– Notes from a Big Country

– Down Under

– Bill Bryson’s African Diary

– Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States

– Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words

– Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors

– A Short History of Nearly Everything

– A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

– On the Shoulders of Giants

– Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery and the Genius of the Royal Society



Bryson in his book, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, says how English is heavily influenced by other languages, especially French. If you were to go back to the history of English language, you will find out that in the times of William the Conqueror, in England, English was pushed to the lower levels and French became the official language. It was used by the upper class and gained more prominence than English. And this was one of the reasons that English borrowed from French. Out of the 10, 000 words that were borrowed from French during this period, that is, the Norman period, 7500 still exist and are used by the English speakers across the world.

The reason for putting English aside was that English, at that time, did not have enough vocabulary and its grammar was not fully developed. Therefore, the already developed Norman French helped the official proceedings to function well. Also, the culture and art spread better in the language that had more of ‘emotive (emotional) vocabulary’ and French filled in that vacuum.

Here’s a French expression:

‘Enfant terrible’

The expression is made up of two words ‘enfant’ which means ‘a child’ and ‘terrible’ which, obviously, means ‘terrible’. The two words jointly mean- a person who is childlike and does things that embarrass people. You could also say, ‘a person of unconventional (not liked by all) behaviour.


He may have been termed enfant terrible, but his work stands above all.

Keep smiling…

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