Friday, August 13, 2010

Just Finished: Made In America


I just recently finished reading this book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, by Bill Bryson, and it was really great! I was a little skeptical at first, but once I got into it I was continually surprised by the information he presents. Bryson is a fantastic non-fiction writer, in that his style is very engaging and humorous. The book is organized cronologically and by category, so it was more of a history of america than just a book about language. Below are a few of the excerpts I found most interesting/entertaining:

In reference to the Pilgrims: "It would be difficult to imagine a group of people more ill-suited to a life in the wilderness. They packed as if they had misunderstood the purpose of the trip. They found room for sundials and candle snuffers, a drum, a trumpet, and a complete history of Turkey. One William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and thirteen pairs of boots. Yet they failed to bring a single cow or horse, plow or fishing line. . . They were in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigors ahead, and they demonstrated their incompetence in the most dramatic possible way: by dying in droves."

"Even on the great National Road, pride of the American highway system, builders were permitted to leave stumps up to fifteen inches high—slightly under knee height. Imagine, if you will, bouncing day after day over rocks, fallen branches, and tree stumps in an unsprung carriage and you may get some notion of the ardors of a long-distance trip in nineteenth-century America."

"Nonetheless, the McDonald's formula has clearly worked. In an average year, all but 4 percent of American consumers will visit a McDonald's at least once . . . McDonald's buys more beef and potatoes and trains more people than any other organization, the U.S. Army included."

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