Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Not a Gripping Thrill Ride

Inventing English:  A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer


This is not a book to pick up and read for pleasure...unless you are a word geek like me.  I did read the book for pleasure, though, and so my review will focus on that rather than the scholarly implications and uses this book would have.

As for pleasure, I couldn't really rate it above just an average book.  I do read linguistic books quite often, just for fun, and this wasn't nearly as good as some others I have read.  The first part of the book was extremely tedious to get through.  That might be because I have already read similar books and have even taken classes in the subject of Old and Middle English, or it could be because the author, I felt, gave too much of the book in that language and didn't really make it accessible for a casual reader.  It was as if he knew way more than he was telling and couldn't really figure out a way to bridge his knowledge with someone much less knowledgeable.  However, if you can hold on to the last half of the book, you're liable to be in for a real surprise.  I just loved the last few chapters, about the impact of African American music and Mark Twain on the development of the American language.  Those were both really new topics for me and I read them eagerly and with great interest.  They even included fellow Kentuckian Jesse Stuart!  Could my interest have been because the second half was clearly American and the first half, the Queen's English?  Possibly so.

Regardless, if you're a scholar, I can't imagine a better book to encourage and enhance your studies.  If you're just a casual linguist like me, it might be better to take the author's advice in the introduction and read a chapter here and there and let it sink in, rather than straight through, like I did.  My way made for a bumpy, long ride.

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