I've just finished Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself. I like Bill Bryson, I know that some people find his humour a bit facile, his knowledge incomplete and his observations run-of-the-mill, but he really makes me laugh out loud and that doesn't happen nearly as often as you'd think perusing this LOL-riddled internet. Although, to be honest, it's usually more a question of muffled mattress-shaking giggles late at night than real guffaws.
It's an old book made up of articles written for a British paper on the subject of returning to the USA after 20 years away. I suspect that it's the sort of book a lot of us would have in us were we ever to go back to wherever it is we came from (except, of course, that the place we came from doesn't exist any longer, or at least not in the way it was when we left it). We could all wax lyrical about rediscovering the quirky customs of our homelands, endearing habits that we'd forgotten all about; the embarrassment of doing things wrong because things have changed and we weren't consulted. On my last trip to Scotland, I was persuaded to ask for "cash back" in a supermarket thinking it was some sort of loyalty scheme and experienced a moment of blind flummox at the front of the queue when asked how much I wanted. Bill Bryson does all of this very well turning the episodes of rediscovery and panic into high comedy.
Other passages are more contemplative. Here he is, for example, on handing over our phonetic heritage to others. He notices that an old New Englander pronounces the place name Norwich just as it is pronounced in England, Norritch, which is surprising since everyone else in the area says it with the "w".
He explained to me that the village was pronounced "Norritch" until the 1950s, when outsiders from places like New York and Boston began to move in and, for whatever reason, started to modify the pronunciation. [...] That seemed to me quite sad, the idea that a traditional local pronunciation could be lost simply because outsiders were too inattentive to preserve it.
This happens in Scotland too. So for the benefit of posterity and preservation I would like it to be known throughout the internet that the correct pronunciation of Crinan, the village in Argyll pictured above, is Creenan.
That is all.