Reviews and Media

Reviews of The Prodigal Tongue

The Economist: Books of the Year

“The first and perhaps only book on the relative merits of American and British English that is dominated by facts and analysis rather than nationalistic prejudice. For all its scholarship, this is also a funny and rollicking read.”

The New York Times, Will Shortz

Of all the recent books I’ve read, my favorite is THE PRODIGAL TONGUE, by Lynne Murphy […] She has a keen ear for the way people speak.

The New York Times, Sarah Lyall
“Many of us already know and admire Murphy from her sprightly Twitter feed and her excellent blog, Separated by a Common Language, both of which reflect her exquisite ear, catholic interests and sly sense of humor. The Prodigal Tongue reminds us of the academic underpinnings of her work, the extensive reading she has done and her own highly entertaining preoccupations.”
“Murphy’s great love for language radiates from these pages.”

The New Yorker
“The author, a scholar of linguistics, revels in the minutiae of spelling, grammar, and usage, and her love of our living, changing language is infectious.”

Times Literary Supplement, Lionel Shriver
The Prodigal Tongue is thorough, well researched, and keen on digging down that extra layer where the linguistic bones are buried. Yet to call it ‘serious’ might do the book an injustice, for her delivery is sparkling, her approach mischievous, her material brightened by the unexpected.”
The Prodigal Tongue is playful, funny, smart and often humbling. The volume reads well for a general readership, yet evidences enough scholarly underpinnings that it must have been a lot of work. Murphy’s prose is beguiling.”

The Telegraph, Jonathon Green (21 April 2018)
“Murphy’s book is pedantic, but for once the definition is positive: she gets things right, offers proof and skewers inaccuracy, and does so with wit and erudition.”

New Statesman, Sophie McBain
“entertaining and sometimes gleeful”
The Prodigal Tongue is ultimately a celebration of the richness and diversity of English, and a reminder that the language we use reflects and perpetuates cultural, political and social imbalances.”

Wall Street Journal, Henry Hitchings
“‘The Prodigal Tongue’ is acute about the more subtle differences between America and Britain”
“the book’s chief pleasure is a simple one: Instead of sending the language to school, it savors a great many words and phrases that are staples on one side of the pond and unfamiliar on the other. Ms. Murphy has an amusing facility for zapping tired language myths”

The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ben Yagoda
“entertaining and enlightening”
“Murphy drills down deep into these differences and emerges with unexpected narratives”

Financial Times, Michael Skapinker
“witty and erudite account of the relationship between these two anglophone tribes”
“what lifts The Prodigal Tongue is Murphy’s deep learning, lightly worn, in linguistics and linguistic history”

The Arts Desk, Liz Thomson
“The book’s a swell read – check it out!”
“it would make a great gift for friends from both countries…I was consistently engaged throughout”

Irish Times, Brian Maye
“the engaging, thoughtful and humorous approach makes for a readable and informative experience”

i , Jeff Robson
“a forensic but entertaining demolition of some of the myths and assumptions that ‘British English’ advocates in particular take to be empirical facts”
“a witty and erudite celebration of the English language, in all its forms” 

The Baltimore Sun, John E. McIntyre:
“This book is a romp. Go buy it.”
“Murphy would have us understand how rich and sturdy English is, that we may come to understand and delight in the richness of our differences.”

Publisher’s Weekly:
“thoughtful, funny, and approachable”
“The book’s momentum comes from Murphy’s witty presentation, but its real power comes from its commitment to inquiry and its profound belief that ‘communication involves a million little acts of faith.'”

The Times, Rose Wild
“Murphy ranges far and wide, with much wonderful detail and colour.”
“she discusses, with energy and erudition, the linguistic issues that divide our two nations”

The Incomparable, Jason Snell
“Lynne Murphy’s position as the perfect observer to talk about this stuff makes it a delightful book.”



to read, about the book & British/American English

New York Times: Is British English Conquering America, or Vice Versa? [interview]
>>Teaching activities for the NYT article

The Guardian: To Brits with knickers in a twist over Americanisms: don’t get your panties in a bunch [article w/ interview]
“The book delves past simply clarifying what Americans call a courgette to explain why the two Englishes aren’t more different, how prudishness changes our experiences at the doctor’s office and what makes grammar classes a political issue in one country but not the other.” Includes a quiz!

Mashable: The romance of British and American English, or why Harry and Meghan will have a blast
“Having read the excellent in-depth language book The Prodigal Tongue […], I now believe the close coupling of American English and British English might itself qualify as the best long-term, long-distance relationship in the world.”

US News & World Report: By the book, which English is better?

Boston Globe: Trousers and pants — stripping down British and American English [interview]

Literary Ashland (blog): An Interview with Lynne Murphy.

All Things Linguistic (blog): I tweeted my way through The Prodigal Tongue, Lynne Murphy’s new book 

Quartz: Are these idioms American or British? [quiz based on the book]

Sussex University News: Why Americans have gone bonkers for Lynne’s new book

to read, by Lynne Murphy

Zócalo Public Square: How Moving to England cured my American Verbal Inferiority complex

HumanitiesWhy Americans Think British Words Are Silly and Adorable  [book excerpt]

Grammar Girl: Spelling -ise/-ize [book excerpt]

Business Insider: Americans and British people use different words in the workplace — and it reveals a fascinating difference in the two cultures [book excerpt]

LitHub: Attention Grammar Pedants! [book excerpt]

Quartz: Words like “slutty” mean something different in the US and the UK [book excerpt]

The Big Issue (UK): Mind your language
In the 26 March-1 April 2018 issue. Help support their great cause by buying a copy! See a teaser here.

to listen to

Cherryleaf podcast: 54. British English and American English.

The World in Words (PRI): When an American says ‘sure’ to a Brit, does it mean yes or no? 

NPR Here & Now: You say ‘hoover’, I say ‘vacuum’: a linguist’s journey across the transatlantic English divide

The American Interest (podcast): 196 Lynne Murphy on The Prodigal Tongue

Freedom, Books, Flowers and the Moon (TLS podcast): discussion with Lionel Shriver about her review of The Prodigal Tongue
“If these are the issues that interest you, this is the book to read. What I like about it is that it defies your expectations. […] studious, though written with a sense of mischief”

Way with Words: The Real British English 
“the new, definitive linguistics-focused work on the differences between American and British English”

The Allusionist (podcast): 76 Across the Pond [extended interview with Helen Zaltzman]

Talk the Talk (RTR-FM Australia / podcast):  319 The Prodigal Tongue [extended interview with Dan Midgley]
Transcript of Talk the Talk Podcast.

BBC Radio 4: More or Less (talking about math v maths at the end of the program[me])

RM World Travel with Rudy Maxa: The Prodigal Tongue

WOSU All Sides with Ann Fisher.

Jefferson Public Radio: Which is the truer English?

KPCC AirTalk: The War of Words

BNR Radio: Ben jij een go-getter of een path finder?

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme (from 2:49)

WAMC Radio (Albany, NY): The Love–Hate Relationship between American and British English.

WGN Radio, Chicago: Interview

SDPB Radio, South Dakota: Interview

Life Elsewhere Radio: The Language Divide.

WSVA Radio: Interview

BBC Radio 4: Americanize! [contributions to Susie Dent’s program(me) on Americanisms in Britain]

BBC Radio 4: Word of Mouth/Like, Totally Awesome: The Americanisation of English [discussion with Michael Rosen and Matthew Engel]