The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

by Bill Bryson

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The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way

by Bill Bryson


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  • The Significance of Family Names

    One of the things that we may take for granted are the meanings behind English surnames. These tend to be very telling, with some names indicating the trade of an ancestor. Others tell of geographical origins. Meanwhile, others are simply descriptive nicknames, such as Armstrong, Tolstoy, and Gorky.

  • Words of the New World

    The arrival of settlers in the Americas opened up a whole new world of words. There were plants and animals that no one had seen before, and they all needed to be named for convenience. Of course, the natives already had names for these, and those were quickly adapted into the English language. Trib

  • The Shifting Meanings of Words

    As time passed and technology changed, words no longer meant the same as they used to. Not only do the details change, but sometimes, the very meaning change. Can you believe that “brave” used to be nearly identical to the word “cowardly”? Even more confusingly, some words retain their old meanings

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