Inventing English

My recent passion has been the psychology of language, or how it has come about. I find this so interesting and if I wasn’t pursuing history and Spanish in college, I’d probably do something on language studies, and mostly how they effect physical and social aspects of life, as well as a broad range of others. What I’m talking about is philology, or love of language. It is completely fascinating to me that a person can be born and grow up speaking a different language than a person one hundred miles away. It’s baffling to me that people can think in other languages, or even dream. The concept of language itself is mindboggling. Today, I’m focusing on a book by Seth Lerer called Inventing English, a book that covers the development of my native language from its beginnings to its ever changing ‘end’. I say ‘end’ because English is always changing. It all began in the Indo-European areas of lower Europe and east central Asia, where civilized life originated from. The influence of these languages led to Germanic cognates in central Europe. Language was very important during this time because it determined your origin, class, and level of education. Runes were used excessively in the area now known as the United Kingdom but it gave way to the basic letters we use today. An example from the book on the basic foundation of English was “Oc was heom naht parof, for hi weron al forcurs oed and forsworen and forloren” meaning, “but it mattered nothing to them, for they were all already cursed, and perjured, and lost.” What amazes me is how someone centuries ago could understand the first quote and that we could not today. Later on, the influence of the French language entered into English, giving us new words and pronunciations. The Great Vowel Shift of the 15th century was procured through the interaction of different dialects, resulting in a systematic change of an entire sound system. Later on, during the time of the Enlightenment, English became more expanded: the largest influx of new words came in 1625, with a total of at least 6000 new words being added that year to the vocabulary of millions. Language continued to be an important part of people’s lives, with dictionaries being made to clear the confusion of multiple pronunciations and spellings. Dialects and native origins also played a bigger role; when colonists came over to America, they picked up native words (for example, I live in Iowa, which is a native American word, and there is evidence of their influence everywhere, from the Wapsipinicon River to Sioux City). Dialects became a part of literature, especially that of Mark Twain, who used the dialect of Africans to enrich his novels and give them character. Margaret Mitchell did the same with her Civil War era novel, Gone With the Wind. As the years went by and technology advanced, especially with the introduction of the telephone, and most recently, texting, language has become a bit more difficult. The author brings about the point that war can change languages and pop culture or slang  has a big influence on what we say. In regards to texting, which can be fairly vague, different arguments can be brought up: one can say that sending little written messages can keep us in contact with each other, but others say that it makes us isolated and afraid of confrontation. Overall, the complexity and structure of any language is always changing: what we say today could be said differently by our grandchildren. This book was tremendously interesting and really helped fuel my passion for learning about language.

This is Not Goodbye

If you  read the title and are now disappointed, I’m sorry (I think). This blog has all along been a year-long project for my AP Language and Composition class where we had to blog three times a week, just about every week, 300 words minimum. If you think I posted that frequently just because I felt like it, you’re a crazy person. When we started blogging it seemed like it was going to be really hard to come up with something to say about books every week. However, I managed my time accordingly and got it done. I really actually have enjoyed blogging a lot more than I thought I would, and that’s why I say this isn’t goodbye. There are two ways that this blog could go, and over time I will probably determine (along with your opinion, dear reader) which way I would like it to go.

Option 1: I think I have written about this before but I would like to change the title of my blog from ‘Always Reading’ to ‘Always’ and then have different categories like ‘Always Reading’ to write about books, ‘Always Watching’ to write about movies, or ‘Always Living’ to write about life. This would make the topics on my blog broader and more open to a wider audience of readers, which sounds pretty exciting. It would give me the chance to blog more frequently and be a little more active in the blogging world. Who knows where that might take me? I just wouldn’t want to commit to this and then find that I have nothing to say.

Option 2: I would keep the blog just as it is and just write about books whenever I finish them. I don’t have a lot going on this summer so I would really like to do as much reading as possible. There are a large number of book blogs out there but what makes them great is that they are all so different.  This, however, would make my posting schedule really infrequent as certain books take a longer time than others (and watching Hulu can become pretty addicting).

These are the options that I am torn between. I will be posting soon about a book I just read called Inventing English by Seth Lerer. After that we will see where blogging takes me. Feel free to comment below on what you think I should do. After all you are the people that read my blog, and you should probably have some say on what you read.

Agatha Christie

Everyone loves a good mystery and Agatha Christie knows that. Agatha Christie was a British author who penned numerous books, one of the most well-known being The Murder on the Orient Express. She had a pretty interesting life and she actually disappeared shortly after her first husband asked for a divorce. To this day, no one knows what happened in the ten days that she was missing. She remarried later and was very happy. Her intuitive mind really heped when it came to constructing her novels. Her favorite character that she uses in a number of books is Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who parallels Nancy Drew in the way he is used over and over again. The people in her books are also very elegant and refined. The way her characters interact with each other is with subdued formality. I say subdued because they are still conversational. She talks in a high-class sort of fashion and even implements some French often throughout the text. Her mysteries are often very twisted and leave the reader guessing through the entire novel, you really don’t know who the killer is until the end of the book, and it is always a shocking revelation. Most readers enjoy her books and they are obviously still read today; on my copy of The Patriotic Murders, it says over 500 million copies of her books have been sold. This shows that she is still relevant and important in society today. In popular culture, Christie has been depicted on television, showing that her legacy lives on. For example, on a Doctor Who episode called ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp,’ Christie’s disappearance is a result of an encounter with an alien called a vespiform. In the end of the episode, the Doctor shows Donna an Agatha Christie book that had been published in the year 5,000,000,000. Even though the show is fictional, it goes to show that Christie is relevant in all genres and society in general. Agatha Christie’s books are cherished and adored by fans and it undoubtedly will be the same for years to come.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s time I talk about one of my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of America knows him because they thought seeing Great Gatsby in theaters would make them seem like they actually knew something, when in reality they probably had no idea what was going on because they didn’t read the book (and it’s a short book, so read it). All the books I have read by F. Scott Fitzgerald have been beyond superb, they are one of the only books I’ve managed to get lost in and want to dissect more. The ones I still have yet to read are The Beautiful and the Damned and The Last Tycoon, but I heard that the latter was unfinished. Fitzgerald’s books are timeless, especially considering the era in which they take place, the roaring 20s. This was a time of changing morals, the feud between modernism and fundamentalism, and just full-on rebellion. Flappers were testing morality and set traditional standards with their loose ways in dress and lifestyle. Men and flappers alike spent their time in speakeasies, drinking prohibited liquor and doing heaven knows what. This is exactly what Fitzgerald writes about, the changing form of society and the people shaping it, as well as the dillusionment of American life. Fitzgerald was part of a group of literary figures at the time called ‘The Lost Generation’, writers who talked about their disenchantment with society and the Jazz Age. He also used personal experiences like his relationship with his wife, Zelda, who can be seen paralleled in Tender is the Night. What I especially love about Fitzgerald is his way of writing. He writes simply, in a complex way. The sentences in general are easy to understand but put into context with the paragraph and then with the book overall, it can be easy to skim over important parts by thinking they are simple. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the romantic, rebellious, and somewhat regretful side of American society during the roaring 20s. He is hands-down one of my favorite authors and his books are ones that I really cherish and plan to reread again someday.

Rereading

Some people like rereading their favorite books over and over again, maybe just to remember it for old times sake, or to get that same feeling they got when they first read it. Whatever the reason, people do reread books. Personally, I don’t enjoy rereading books. I like reading as many as I can to challenge myself so I don’t like taking time to read one again. The only time I would really reread a book is if it is one of my favorites that is a little on the short side or if I read it a while ago and it is being turned into a movie. I like to read them a few weeks before I go see the movie just so the details are fresh in my mind and so I don’t miss out on anything, not that I have any idea on why this would be important. Books are basically made to be reread-that is the overarching goal of the author. Why write a book that someone will only read once? The author wants to tell you a story that you will want to remember and revisit later on. Like I said early, I’m not a big fan of rereading. Even when it comes to movies, I don’t rewatch many unless I have the hankering to. Me and my family really only buy books and movies that we have read or seen before. Maybe that makes us hesitant to try new things or stingy when it comes to giving up our favorites but I’m definitely okay with it. I just want time to read books that I haven’t read yet, as quickly as possible. Over the summer I may do some rereading, but I do want to get some books marked off  my list to at least give me a sense of accomplishment. Do you reread books often?

Why Historical Novels are Important

How do we know what we know about history? Careful accounts and discoveries have made the amount of information we know on our backgrounds larger and more finite. Historical novels, whether fictional or realistic, help us out even more by describing what life was like back then and how people dressed, acted, and behaved. Without them, we would lose the important part of history that makes us human. Historical books (and not just textbooks) teach us things that we actually wouldn’t have learned from reading a textbook. However, this post may be a little biased since my favorite genre of books is historical fiction. Historical novels can be based in fact or fiction. The fact comes from things that actually happened and the fiction is filler that the author thinks will make an entertaining story. Movies can be this way, too; when it is ‘based on a true story’, it is just that, some filler has been added to make the story flow better or look different, but most usually coincide to the actual events that happened. Take Titanic and Gone With the Wind for example: one about a tragic ship accident and the other based during the time of the American Civil War, with Sherman’s March to the sea being mentioned. However, there was most likely no one named Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater on the Titanic, and if Scarlett O’Hara was actually real, she is a long-forgotten Southern belle. Whatever the case, historical fiction is exciting to me because I find history itself so interesting. Learning how people lived over one hundred years ago is something I find so fascinating and I totally wish the Doctor and the Tardis were real. So whenever they invent time travel, sign me up. I want to learn about these distant times authors write about and live them.

The Jungle

If it weren’t for this book, maybe none of us would be alive today, but that could be an over exaggeration. The Jungle brings to light the horrors of meat  packing plants in the 1920s and actually brought about reforms in the way our food is handled and processed. Upton Sinclair’s novel takes place in the fiction city called Packingtown, a city that closely resembles Chicago in the same time era. It follows a newly immigrated Lithuanian family and their trials in America, a strange and foreign land. Jurgis is the head of the family and he is engaged to Ona. Her cousin, Marija and stepmother Elzbieta live with them along with a few other family members. They live in a tenement in the beginning of the novel and purchase their own house later, however realizing that they were scammed when it came to making payments on it. The family struggles more but Jurgis gets a job in a meat packing plant and the family is a little better off as the older ones get jobs as well. However, Ona admits to being sexually harassed at her workplace and Jurgis confronts the boss who was making the advances, knocking him out cold and landing him in prison. The family is unaware of Jurgis being locked up and have to find ways to make more money without him, Marija resulting to prostitution to make ends meet. Jurgis gets out of prison and realizes Ona is about to have a second child, but dies while in labor because the family couldn’t scrounge up enough money to find a sufficient doctor to save her, and their first child, Antanas, drowns in the street. Jurgis is defeated and leaves the family and beings to wander the country looking for work, falling deeper into alcoholism. In the end, he comes back to his family and becomes a socialist after seeing a rally (this is ironic because in my version of the book, there is an introduction by the author that praises socialism and you can tell he’s pretty biased). The Jungle was an interesting read, probably because it’s a historical novel, but also because it was based on fact. Sinclair was a muckraker and he saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were in factories that were processing food. It shows how our country fixed a problem in society and how to not revert back to that again.

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

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