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    In this hymn to the mother tongue Bill Bryson examines how a language "treated for centuries as the inadequate and second-rate tongue of peasants" has now become the undisputed global language (more people learn English in China than live in the USA).

    He explains how the words shampoo, sofa, slogan, OK and rowdy (and others drawn from over fifty languages) got into our dictionaries and how the major dictionaries were created. He explores the countless varieties of English - from American to Australian, from Creole to Cockney rhyming slang - and the perils of marketing brands with names like Pschitt and Super Piss.

    With entertaining sections on the oddities of swearing and spelling, spoonerisms and Scrabble, and a consideration of what we mean by "good English", 'Mother Tongue' is one of the most stimulating books yet written on this endlessly engrossing subject.

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