I Love Bill Bryson

July 2nd, 2010

Bill (and Mick):  TMI

Bill Bryson is the kind of man I could fall madly in love with.  I would marry the man if:   a) I knew him, b) I hadn’t already been married for 30 years, and c) if he was at all interested in leaving his wife and family for a 56 year old woman with bad feet but good hair.

Actually, the same is true with Mick Jagger.  In fact, I have a fidelity exception written into my marriage contract for Mick that my husband has even agreed to (he’s thinking, “fat chance”, and after 30 years he’s probably right).  Are you reading this, Mick?  Hmmm….. Thought not.

But that’s perhaps too much information, known in the USA as TMI – as in “sweetheart, you do have a lovely shit-eating grin on your face, but really, the exact details of last night’s date are TMI for your mom.”

Why I Love Bill Bryson

But, I’ve digressed. Why do I love Bill Bryson?  And who is he?

Well, Bill Bryson is a wonderful, funny writer who has written many books on all topics.  Loosely, he could be called primarily a travel writer, but his books are far more than that, and not always about that at all.

His book that I have recently thoroughly enjoyed is called The Mother Tongue – English and How It Got That Way.  In it Bryson explores the history and development of the English language (not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love stuff like this.  Yeah, I know….)  And, what he concludes is that the English language is crazy.

And, why I love him is that he concludes that English grammar is also crazy and makes no sense whatsoever.  As I said, I love this man.  (You can see that my pathetic life has become way, way too involved with grammar.)

Learning English Grammar Is NOT the Same as Learning English

I’ve always been good at English, at reading it, at writing it, at speaking it, but I have never, ever been good at grammar.  In middle school, when we first studied grammar, I failed every single grammar test I ever took.  I went on to study English literature at UC Berkeley, quite a reputable institution, and managed to graduate with extremely high grades, but only because there were no grammar tests.

I have long felt that learning grammar bears no relationship to using the English language well.  And now, I am vindicated.  Bill Bryson says, “In English we possess a language in which parts of speech are almost entirely notional” and “the parts of speech must be so broadly defined as to be almost meaningless.”

EXACTLY! I am a rational, logical person, as are my Lake Tahoe Institute of English clients.  I can’t always explain grammar questions to logical English learners because there is no logic to much of it.  To date, I have done my best, but have all too often resorted to saying “I’m sorry, but English is crazy.  Just memorize it.”  And now I know, English is crazy, and it is because I am so logical that I can’t explain it.  I’ll be writing more abut the reasons for this in future posts, but for now, let me just say:

I love you Bill Bryson!

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