From Publishers Weekly:
This compelling and charmingly personal companion to an eight-part television documentary makes for an idiosyncratic rival to PBS’s bestselling blockbuster The Story of English, by Robert McCrum et al. Titling a history of the evolution and expansion of a language an “adventure” presupposes a hero, with such obvious choices as Alfred the Great, for defeating the Danes; Chaucer, for his Canterbury Tales; Shakespeare, for his poetic inventiveness; or Samuel Johnson, for his groundbreaking dictionary. Bragg, a British TV and radio personality and novelist (The Soldier’s Return), gives all their contributions their due, but English itself, with its “deep obstinacy” and “astonishing flexibility,” emerges as his favorite character. Bragg’s enthusiasm for his subject-hero, whether the Old English of Beowulfor the new “Text English” of the Internet, makes up for his shortcomings as a linguist: his sources, unfootnoted, are at times at variance with the OED or Webster’s Third. For instance, Bragg furnishes only one putative origin for the disputed “real McCoy.” Moreover “candy” does not seem to have Anglo-Indian origins (it’s from the Arabic “qandi”), and the first recorded use of “vast” is not from Shakespeare (the OED cites Archbishop Edwin Sandys). Nevertheless, this “biography” succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative, carrying the reader from the origins of Anglo-Saxon through the Viking and Norman invasions to the consolidation of “British” English and outward to America, Australia, India, the West Indies and beyond. After some 1,500 years, with one billion speakers now worldwide, according to Bragg, the English language has displayed an amazing ability to repair and reinvent itself, as Bragg ably shows.
I always have a hard time writing up my thoughts on audio books, mainly because I forget all the details, and I have no text to look back through.
So pretty much all I have to say is I particularly enjoyed the first half of this audio book, when Bragg focuses on the evolution of the language, from its beginnings and early influences, to its struggle to survive the Viking and Norman invasions. The later part of the book, with its focus on the spread of English to England’s colonies and throughout the world, while still interesting, seemed less focused and more rambling.
I’m actually wishing I had read this one, as there was so much information and interesting little details. I’m having a heck of a time remembering what was discussed.