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Bill Bryson - The Mother Tongue - English & How It Got That Way (PDF)

Bill Bryson - The Mother Tongue - English & How It Got That Way (PDF)

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Published by: jdteacher on Sep 09, 2010
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11/17/2014

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MORETHAN
3
00MILLIONPEOPLEIN
the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.
It would be charitable to say that the results are sometimes mixed.
Consider this hearty announcement in a Yugoslavian hotel: "The
flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chamber-maid. Turn to her straightaway." Or this warning to motorists in
Tokyo: "When a passenger of the f00t heave in sight, t00tle the
horn. Trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles
your passage, then tootle him with vigor." Or these instructions
gracing a packet of convenience f00d from Italy: "Besmear a back-
ing pan, previously buttered with a g00d tomato sauce, and, after,
dispose the cannelloni, lightly distanced between them in a only
couch."
Clearly the writer of 
that 
message was not about to let a littleignorance of English stand in the way of a g00d meal. In fact, itwould appear that one of the beauties of the English language isthat with even the most tenuous grasp you can speak volumes if 
you show enough enthusiasm—a willingness to t00tle with vigor,
as
it were.
To be fair, English is full of b00by traps for the unwary foreigner.
Any language where the unassuming word flysignifies an annoyinginsect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman's apparel
is clearly asking to be mangled. Imagine being a foreigner and
having to learn that in English one tells
a lie
but
the
truth, that a
person who says "I could care less" means the same thing as some-one who says "I couldn't care less," that a sign in a store saying
AL
ITEMS NOT ON SALE
doesn't mean literally what it says (that every
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