Published by Penguin on March 24th 2015
Genres: Essays & Travelogues, General, Language Arts & Disciplines, Popular Culture, Social Science, Travel
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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An expat’s witty and insightful exploration of English and American cultural differences through the lens of language that will leave readers gobsmackedIn That’s Not English, the seemingly superficial differences between British and American English open the door to a deeper exploration of a historic and fascinating cultural divide. In each of the thirty chapters, Erin Moore explains a different word we use that says more about us than we think. For example, "Quite" exposes the tension between English reserve and American enthusiasm; in "Moreish," she addresses our snacking habits. In "Partner," she examines marriage equality; in "Pull," the theme is dating and sex; "Cheers" is about drinking; and "Knackered" covers how we raise our kids. The result is a cultural history in miniature and an expatriate’s survival guide. American by birth, Moore is a former book editor who specialized in spotting British books—including Eats, Shoots & Leaves—for the US market. She’s spent the last seven years living in England with her Anglo American husband and a small daughter with an English accent. That’s Not English is the perfect companion for modern Anglophiles and the ten million British and American travelers who visit one another’s countries each year.
This is such a fun, lighthearted book about the idiosyncrasies between American and British English! That’s Not English isn’t so much about etymology or accents as it is about the implications, cultural context, and attitudes behind and related to our word choices, using our shared but oh-so-different language as its inspiration.
Moore does tend to go off on tangents, but they’re interesting, thoughtful rabbit trails I was more than happy to follow. For example, “knackered” vs. “exhausted” prompted a look into the differences between American and English views and attitudes on pregnancy, childbirth, and health care. There was also an especially interesting look at the evolution of language among the children of expats.
Sometimes her observations feel more like generalizations; it’s like she speaks in hyperbole, but there is certainly plenty of truth within her statements. And I like that she doesn’t spend too much time on each word. For a nonfiction read about language and word usage, this was never once tedious. To be honest, it was downright funny much of the time; I laughed out loud often!
This is an entertaining read for language lovers and Anglophiles alike.
Giveaway: The kind people at Gotham Books have offered a copy of That’s Not English to one of my lucky readers (US only). Enter below for a chance to win; contest will run through Monday, March 30 in my time zone (Central).