This is a history of the English language written by Bill Bryson from 1990 and it FEEEEEEELS very 1990 in its tone and scope. For the most part it’s interesting and holds up in a lot of ways. The audiobook version is really nice, especially when it gets to some of the weird pronunciations of Welsh and English place names. So when the audiobook reader is quickly spelling out the placenames I am quickly trying to envision them so when he reads them I can hear how differently they are, so that’s a little disorienting, but otherwise it’s solid.
I know there’s an American version of this book, or a kind of sequel rather, that I might also listen to if given the chance, because if you’re not American, then you might not know how ridiculous some of our pronunciation is, while also how oddly faithful other of our pronunciation is. There’s a place in Virginia spelled “McGaheysville” and pronounced “McGackeysville”, there’s “Staunton” pronounced “Stanton”, we have Ants and Awwnts (I say Awwnts), and sometimes there’s an R in Washington.
So the issue with this book is that it’s pretty cemented in 1990 and if it had stopped there it would have made more sense. There’s a too loose and definitely easily outdated foray into slang and not enough understanding of how television, radio, and of course later the internet affects various kind of language and how quickly those changes happen. There’s also some uncomfortable delving into racial slurs that doesn’t really offer much analysis, but also answers the unasked dare of “go on, say it”.