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.
How do you pronouce Milgavie? I only ask because I was sure it was Mill-guy until last Christmas when my bestie told me her new boyfriend was from Milgavee. I didn't want to come across the smartie-pants and correct her especially since her new bloke should have told her. Not like me, I know.
And let's not forget Kilconquhar, too!
Mill-guy, definitely Mill-guy. (Maybe he's deaf?)
I've never read Bill Bryson but my mum is a huge fan. Which of his many books would you recommend I begin with?
Ms Mac, I lived right next to Milngavie and it's definitely, definitely Mill-guy, you were correct!
Petite Ecossaise: I'd start with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.
I've enjoyed several Bill Bryson books but his best by a long way for me is 'A Short History of Nearly Everything'.
Glad to see I'm right about Mill-guy too...
Thanks Lesley! Will check it out, quite looking forward to it actually! :-)
And what about Dionne Warwick, that never seemed right to me, and people saying Shrewsbury's first syllable as in small insectivorous mammal rather than the old spelling of 'show'...
My brother in Australia, who went to school in St Albans, was quite amused to hear someone on the radio there (in Aus) referring to it as 'S'n'Albans', when they had obviously just heard a local saying that was where they were.
That's a very pretty picture of Crinan, it looks lovely.
Wow... 'I'm A Stranger Here Myself' is the book that made we want to start a blog (rather than Wernicke's brain affliction thingy)when I was living and working in the States. And believe it or not, I just bought his new book 'Shakespeare' in Tescos on Tuesday evening (can't argue with a £3.80 price tag) and got £30 cash back in the process!!!
And just up the road from Crinan the local talk about InverarAH - not Inveraray.
I'm in the Mill-guy camp :-)
Lucy: Not my picture, but it is a very beautiful place.
Neil: Is Shakespeare any good? You'll have to explain the cash back thing to me sometime.
Mo: My grandparents lived in Kilmahumaig, just outside Crinan for most of their lives.
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