Audiobooks are Back


May 4, 2019

They’re good again.

Recently, my friend Orta recommended an audiobook to me. I had tried audiobooks before but they just never clicked for – I always enjoyed reading a hard copy more. But Orta said this audiobook was different – it was better to listen to the audiobook (instead of reading a hardcopy) because it was an audiobook. I was intrigued, so I re-started by Audible subscription and tried it out.

The book was Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English and Orta was right to praise it. The audiobook is narrated by the author himself, which isn’t necessarily good, but the book tells the story of the history of English and the author’s struggles against the authority of academic linguists, who refuse to recognize his historical narratives.

This author has a grudge. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. And he has a point to prove. That all comes across in his delivery – he’ll chuckle at his own jokes and do little asides, and it feels fun to listen to. But he always respects his peers, he just disagrees with them. The book is as much a history of English as it is a history of the study of English. And, since a book about linguistic study will necessarily include comparisons to different languages, he orates those languages too.

In summary, his oration supports the book’s thesis and I find it very satisfying to listen to. Also the book is short, less than 5 hours.

This is all to say that I really enjoyed this book and it has led me to re-evaluate my opinion of audiobooks in general. The subject matter itself is very interesting, too. The book introduced me to a lot of metaphors, which it uses to describe the evolution of languages over time. I have found myself using those metaphors to think about programming languages. Obviously, natural and programming languages are very very different, but there are similarities; programming languages also influence each other’s syntax over time.

Anyway, check it out!


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