Do You Speak American? (Google eBook)

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 240 pages
41 Reviews
Is American English in decline? Are regional dialects dying out? Is there a difference between men and women in how they adapt to linguistic variations?

These questions, and more, about our language catapulted Robert MacNeil and William Cran—the authors (with Robert McCrum) of the language classic The Story of English—across the country in search of the answers. Do You Speak American? is the tale of their discoveries, which provocatively show how the standard for American English—if a standard exists—is changing quickly and dramatically.

On a journey that takes them from the Northeast, through Appalachia and the Deep South, and west to California, the authors observe everyday verbal interactions and in a host of interviews with native speakers glean the linguistic quirks and traditions characteristic of each area. While examining the histories and controversies surrounding both written and spoken American English, they address anxieties and assumptions that, when explored, are highly emotional, such as the growing influence of Spanish as a threat to American English and the special treatment of African-American vernacular English. And, challenging the purists who think grammatical standards are in serious deterioration and that media saturation of our culture is homogenizing our speech, they surprise us with unpredictable responses.

With insight and wit, MacNeil and Cran bring us a compelling book that is at once a celebration and a potent study of our singular language.


Each wave of immigration has brought new words to enrich the American language. Do you recognize the origin of


1. blunderbuss, sleigh, stoop, coleslaw, boss, waffle?

Or

2. dumb, ouch, shyster, check, kaput, scram, bummer?

Or

3. phooey, pastrami, glitch, kibbitz, schnozzle?

Or

4. broccoli, espresso, pizza, pasta, macaroni, radio?

Or

5. smithereens, lollapalooza, speakeasy, hooligan?

Or

6. vamoose, chaps, stampede, mustang, ranch, corral?











1. Dutch 2. German 3. Yiddish 4. Italian 5. Irish 6. Spanish


From the Hardcover edition.
  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mirrani - LibraryThing

I am not a linguist, but I was raised by one. As a result of hearing different languages and different language dialects throughout my life, I have a love of listening to the various dialects of ... Read full review

Review: Do You Speak American?

User Review  - Paul Madarasz - Goodreads

A great introduction to our American language, told in an erudite (but quite readable) fashion. This ex-linguistics major found a lot in it I didn't know. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
9
Section 3
30
Section 4
67
Section 5
203
Section 6
205
Section 7
211
Section 8
213

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 5 - English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the last or French is in the present age. The reason of this is obvious, because the increasing population in America, and their universal connection and correspondence with all nations will, aided by the influence of England in the world, whether great or small, force their language into general use...
Page 18 - The same is the case in England— I mean among the educated classes, of course." "Yes, that is true; but a nation's language is a very large matter. It is not simply a manner of speech obtaining among the educated handful; the manner obtaining among the vast uneducated multitude must be considered also. Your uneducated masses speak English, you will not deny that; our uneducated masses speak American...
Page 15 - His family moved to the United States at the beginning of World War II, and Simon went on to earn a Harvard Ph.D.
Page 18 - ... stiff French garden of Louis XIV, while the English is like an English park, which is laid out seemingly without any definite plan, and in which you are allowed to walk everywhere according to your own fancy without having to fear a stern keeper enforcing rigorous regulations. The English language would not have been what it is if the English had not been for centuries great respecters of the liberties of each individual and if everybody had not been free to strike out new paths for himself.

References to this book

Harvey Girl
Sheila Wood Foard
Limited preview - 2006

About the author (2007)

ROBERT MacNEIL and WILLIAM CRAN are the coauthors of The Story of English (with Robert McCrum). The coanchor of PBS’s The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour until his retirement in 1995, Robert MacNeil is also the author of four nonfiction works, including his two volumes of memoir, Wordstruck and Looking for My Country, and three novels, The Voyage, Burden of Desire, and Breaking News. He lives in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.

Bibliographic information