Author: Geoffrey Nunberg
Date Released: 2001
Page Count: 256
Isbn10 Code: 0618116028
Isbn13 Code: 9780618471317
From Publishers Weekly Stanford linguistics professor Nunberg is well-placed to critique netiquette, computer grammar checkers and "The Software We Deserve" via his computer language research at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. In these engaging, often humorous essays, he takes digs at "emoticons" ("a string of punctuation marks suggesting a facial expression laid on its side," and, moreover, a word that "deserves to die horribly in a head-on collision with infotainment"), suggesting that Kafka might have used a "frownie" and Austen a "winkie." But many of his subjects are nontechnological, concerning everyday culture and speech. While disapproving of some contemporary grammatical lapses, Nunberg admits that some words only exist for spelling bees and tolerates certain slang. Regarding the oft-aired contention in the Ebonics debate that schools must teach the language of Shakespeare and James Baldwin, Nunberg argues somewhat sardonically that, in fact, inner-city kids must learn "to speak like kids in middle-class suburbs, so they can grow up to become competent speakers of the brutalist clatter of the American political and business worlds." During the presidential election debates, Nunberg discerned from Gore's disinclination to contract verbs that he wasn't "gonna" beat the more homespun Bush. Pondering how current language trends might sound in 50 years, he worries that his daughter Sophie will meet the dowdy fate that once awaited women named Ethel or Mildred, and disdains the trendy vocabulary borrowed from California Esalen Institute-type movements (e.g., "proactive," "prequel," "rockumentary"). Nunberg never fails to reveal some bit of history embedded in language, and, despite his occasionally stuffy responses to contemporary jargon, his acuity and fixation on funny pop-phenomena keep the book fresh. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From Library Journal Compiling humorous commentaries about language in the United States, Nunberg, a language and computer technology researcher and a consulting linguistics professor at Stanford, here offers essays prepared for National Public Radio's Fresh Air. Some of the many topics covered are the long-lasting linguistic impact of movies, software that checks grammar, and word histories. Likewise, politics is one of six categories in which the essays are chronologically organized. Some readers will enjoy a review of 1990s events through reading the essays in their published order, while others can skip around owing to the essays' short length and approachable tones. Another collection about language that targets a similar audience of general readers is Verbatim: From the Bawdy to the Sublime, the Best Writing on Language for Word Lovers, Grammar Mavens, and Armchair Linguists (Harcourt, 2001), edited by Erin McKean. Recommended for large public libraries and libraries in communities with a strong National Public Radio audience. Marianne Orme, Des Plaines, IL Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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