Auckland, Melbourne, Singapore and Toronto.
Made in America is about the evolution of
"Americanisms" that have developed in The United
States even before it was established. The author
traces the names of places, spellings, inventions,
foods, Movies ending up with American English today.
Bryson uses many linguistic terms to explain the
vagaries of American English, such as backformation,
He also debunks many well-loved historical figures
such as Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln. That these
people became famous, and accomplished so much,
according to Bryson is nothing short of miracalous.
The choice of words in the consititution were not by
chance, but each word was carefully pored over.
The language of the 18th century was flowery, and most
orators would not use the same word in two weeks, so
Lincoln's Gettysburg address was not immediately
hailed as a success at the time, but only afterwards
his type of oration became the norm.
Place names were taken from many places, including the
orginal Indian place names, but mostly were shortened
and made palatable for American tongues to pronounce.
Most of the common inventions were not called such by
their inventors but had more descriptive names. The
transisitor was called: three-electrode circuit
element utilizing semi-conductive materials. This was
later shortened to transistor. The typewriter was
called, the Type-Writer which was unusual in that it
kept it's own name. The arragnement of the keys
however still in our modern day is not the most
effiecent. The letters that are used most often are
relegated to the periphery because that was the only
way that the machine's keys would not get balled up
together. (I learned how to type on a manual machine
and this is exactly what happens when one tries to
type too fast)
Many words were chosen because they described
something new. The skyscraper, was first used for a
top hat in 1794 and then was applied to tall buildings
Personal names were changed for either ease of
prounciation or because a different name could ease
the person's ability to get a job or become famous.
Israel Baline became Irving Berlin, a Jewish man who
wrote one of the most famous Christmas songs: I'm
dreaming of a White Christmas. Many Jews had only had
to have surnames only 60 or 70 years before coming to
America, and they were only too happy to shed them
because some of the surnames imposed on them were
unattractive to begin with.
Most American Blacks who only recieved a surname with
Freedom, adopted throughly American names such as
Jones, Smith, and many named themselves after a hero
such as Jefferson, Washington, and Howard, but not
The book is a treasure trove of information, how the American language came to be as we now speak it. We see that new words only come into use as they are needed, in very interesting ways.