‘You Say Potato’ is a book about English accents and how they are perceived in society. The famous linguist David Crystal is a descriptivist (someone who describes language as what it is and does not show any preference for any accent or dialect) who has worked on this book together with his son Ben (an actor). Both David and Ben share a passion for language and this book has a nice feel to it as rather than it just being words on a piece of paper to read, it feels as though you’re included in part of an informal conversation with both authors.
This book draws attention to the main accents in England and how they’re formed as well as the history of each accent and the opinions that the general public have, which can cause some negative stigmas attached to certain accents. As there are a lot of technical terms and names of people within the industry used in this book, the authors have included the use of footnotes next to each of these, where a description of what something or who someone is has been given at the bottom of the page, making it easier for the reader to understand the book even if they don’t have any background linguistic knowledge.
To make the book an easy reader for everyone, David and Ben have written it in a light hearted way with many jokes being passed between them that all readers are able to understand, making the book a less intense read so that the reader feels like they’re reading it more for leisure rather than for learning. Personally, this is one of my favourite linguistic books because there is so much information packed into just this one book that at the end, you’re left wanting to read it again and again.
The book is structured into four main parts: ‘Accent Passion’, ‘Accents Past’, ‘Accent Present’ and ‘Accent Future’. Part one is almost like an extended introduction to accents and addresses key linguistic developments and topics of conversation over the years that less experienced readers are more likely to have heard of and understand, such as, the negative stigma surrounding the ‘Brummie’ accent. What’s also discussed is the fact that there isn’t just a ‘northern’ or a ‘southern’ accent, that southern accent could be Estuary English, Cockney or West Country and that northern accent could be Mancunian, Scouse or Yorkshire.
In short, if I had to write a list of my ‘must read’ books, this would definitely be at the top because it combines everything you could want in a book: linguistic knowledge, humour and it is written by authors who share a deep passion for the world of language, whose extensive knowledge can be shared and enjoyed by all who read.