The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language
Melvyn Bragg
(Hodder & Stoughton, Great Britain: 2005)

READ: September-November 2006

I kept seeing this book in the English-language section of one of the bookstores in nearby Nagoya, and finally I had to buy it. And man, what a compelling read!

As the title suggests, Melvyn Bragg has set out to give us a history of the English language. But far from being dry and pedantic, he has a humorous, often light-hearted twist on the story. He gives further details where needed, and glosses over other parts of the story when they are not key to the advancement of the telling. (A skill I sorely lack.) The result is a thoroughly entertaining read about an important movement in history - the development and entrenchment of the English language across large swathes of the world.

Obviously, this book is a little Euro- ethnocentric, but, well, it is about the English language specifically (not just language in general), so that's hardly avoidable. While he sometimes explodes into overblown grandeur, overall Bragg does a good job of recognizing his bias (and, indeed, the bias of the language itself).

This book is apparently at least based in part on a television documentary (I think for the BBC) that Bragg did a few years earlier, but that's all I know.

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