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introductory sequence epsiode 1Do You Speak American? 
by Robert MacNeil and William Cran Hardcover | Nan A. Talese | Language Arts; Current Affairs |Doubleday|December 2004 |

Do You Speak American?

on DVD and Video

All available beginning
January  6, 2005!

Why do Maine lobstermen sound so different from Texas cowboys? Will Spanish ever become the dominant language of America? And how is English linked to issues of race, gender, and class? In this three-part series, celebrated journalist and writer Robert MacNeil travels across the country to answer these and other questions as he examines the dynamic state of American English—a language rich in regional variety, strong in global impact, and steeped in cultural controversy.

DVD and Video
Enhanced DVD and Conventional Video Formats.

Enhanced DVD format includes live links to the PBS Web site containing content that reinforces and expands upon the crucial concepts and pivotal issues raised in the series.  A computer with a DVD-ROM drive is required to access enhanced content.

3-part series, 60 minutes per episode. On-demand English subtitles.


do you speak american book jacketEach wave of immigration has brought new words to enrich the American language. Do you recognize the origin of :

    1. blunderbuss, sleigh, stoop, coleslaw, boss, waffle?


    2. dumb, ouch, shyster, check, kaput, scram, bummer?


    3. phooey, pastrami, glitch, kibbitz, schnozzle?


    4. broccoli, espresso, pizza, pasta, macaroni, radio?


    5. smithereens, lollapalooza, speakeasy, hooligan?


    6. vamoose, chaps, stampede, mustang, ranch, corral?

Answers:  1. Dutch  2. German  3. Yiddish  4. Italian  5. Irish  6. Spanish

Is American English in decline? Are regional dialects dying out? Is there a difference between men and women in how they adapt to linguistic variations?

These questions, and more, about our language catapulted Robert MacNeil and William Cran - the authors (with Robert McCrum) of the language classic The Story of English - across the country in search of the answers. Do You Speak American? is the tale of their discoveries, which provocatively show how the standard for American English - if a standard exists - is changing quickly and dramatically.

On a journey that takes them from the Northeast, through Appalachia and the Deep South, and west to California, the authors observe everyday verbal interactions and in a host of interviews with native speakers glean the linguistic quirks and traditions characteristic of each area. While examining the histories and controversies surrounding both written and spoken American English, they address anxieties and assumptions that, when explored, are highly emotional, such as the growing influence of Spanish as a threat to American English and the special treatment of African American vernacular English. And, challenging the purists who think grammatical standards are in serious deterioration and that media saturation of our culture is homogenizing our speech, they surprise us with unpredictable responses.

With insight and wit, MacNeil and Cran bring us a compelling book that is at once a celebration and a potent study of our singular language.

Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Humanities Hewlett Foundation Ford Foundation   Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Carnegie Corporation

National Endowment
for the Humanities

William and Flora Hewlett


Rosalind P.

Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations

Corporation of New York