language

Beatrice Murch/Wikimedia

Maybe you've visited one of those web quiz pages that asks you about some word choices, then tells you--often accurately--where you're from. 

The quiz works because people DO use different phrases and idioms in different parts of the country. 

A "hero" sandwich in New York is a "grinder" in nearby Connecticut. 

Josh Katz focuses on the regional variations in his book "Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide." 

Wikimedia/Public Domain

We've been tasked with interviewing John McWhorter.  It's not that big an ask, and he literally will not be here in person. 

Do those first two sentences remind you of how CONSTANTLY our language changes?  And that we're not always happy about the changes? 

That's what John McWhorter writes about, in his book Words on the Move: Why English Won't--and Can't--Sit Still (Like, Literally)

He points out the ways in which English is already different from what previous generations spoke. 

Basic Books

Tired of the rhetoric in this year's political campaigns?  There's a lot more of it coming, and some of it might be uplifting. 

If you take that optimistic viewpoint, you'll likely have company in British writer and editor Sam Leith.  He views the high and low points of the history of persuasive speech in his book Words Like Loaded Pistols

From Cicero to Simpson (Homer), it's a rich history. 

Wikimedia

Well, this has to be a first.  We can neither say the title nor show the cover of a book we're discussing on the air. 

Because the book is about BS, and you know what that stands for. 

Language expert and humorist Mark Peters takes a tour through the range of terms we often use (think "balderdash" and "bunk") in his book Bulls**t: A Lexicon

Workman Publishing

The vocabulary of the English language is huge. 

But sometimes, it's not big enough, at least not big enough to contain phrases that SHOULD be words. 

Lizzie Skurnick started creating words years ago, leading to a New York Times Magazine column rolling out her inventions. 

The column has now morphed into a book, That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover’s Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World

Penguin Books

It's a good thing we speak English.  We hear it is VERY hard to learn for people who did not grow up with it. 

And that's partly because it's such a mish-mosh of parts of earlier languages (and some living ones). 

And we make it harder on ourselves with the way we use it, as Ammon Shea demonstrates in Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation

Blue Rider Press

Politicians long ago perfected the art of speaking for long periods of time without actually saying ANYTHING of substance. 

But they're not alone... spinning a story to soften or hide true intent is common now in many endeavors.  For example, ever lose a job because your company "rightsized"? 

Many of today's weasel words--sorry, terminological inexactitude--are explored in the book Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language. 

Delivering Insults With Class

Feb 10, 2014

Did we mention February is big for Shakespeare in Ashland?

 

We could not resist an interview with the creator of the clever book Shakespeare Insult Generator.  Think of it as “Mad Libs” for insults, using lines and words from Shakespeare plays.