A best-selling linguist takes us on a lively tour of how the English language is evolving before our eyes - and why we should embrace this transformation and not fight it.
Language is always changing - but we tend not to like it. We understand that new words must be created for new things, but the way English is spoken today rubs many of us the wrong way. Whether it's the use of literally to mean "figuratively" rather than "by the letter" or the way young people use LOL and like, or business jargon like what's the ask? - it often seems as if the language is deteriorating before our eyes.
But the truth is different and a lot less scary, as John McWhorter shows in this delightful and eye-opening exploration of how English has always been in motion and continues to evolve today. Drawing examples from everyday life and employing a generous helping of humor, he shows that these shifts are a natural process common to all languages and that we should embrace and appreciate these changes, not condemn them.
Words on the Move opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that silly once meant "blessed"? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn?
McWhorter encourages us to marvel at the dynamism and resilience of the English language, and his book offers a lively journey through which we discover that words are ever on the move, and our lives are all the richer for it.
©2016 John H. McWhorter (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
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"Review By a Fan"
I follow Prof. McWhorter--listen to his books, watch his Ted Talks; if he were to give a lecture in my town, I'd buy a ticket. He has several themes he returns to over and over again: that languages evolve, that English is not spoken correctly vs. incorrectly, but in dialects, the effect of texting on the language and so on. He hits them again in Words on the Move.
Some people might eventually find this slightly repetitive, but not me. I like his jokes, his anecdotes and--occasionally--his total goofy nerdiness. (His comprehensive knowledge of vintage sit coms, for example.) So I'm giving this five stars because I enjoy all of the above. If you don't, you'll still like the book, but you may not feel motivated to award five stars. I totally get that. You do you, I do me...
"Funny and insightful. Some material reused."
Entertaining and informative material and great reading as expected, but there's a fair amount of overlap in material with McWhorter's previous books and Lexicon Valley podcast, and it's a bit shallower than his previous books. Wouldn't get it in hard-cover, but the audio format is worth it.
"Fascinating aspects of language"
As with his lectures, John McWhorter's narration makes the book come alive. The author is to say the least an incredibly engaging communicator.
The book explains language, as being fluid and temporal. Words and pronunciations are continuously going through transformations too gradually for us to take real notice.
For those who believe that there is a proper way to speak. The answer is only as far as it helps to communicate better. But words are morphed and recreated continuously. The new ways of speaking and texting, seen by many as deforming the language, have actually quite a bit of depth, where words become the communicator of feelings.
This is not a new phenomena. What we call proper English would probably be looked at as deformed by Shakespeare's English in the very same way we are uncomfortable with the changing uses of words.
Excellent book. Highly recommended to anyone fascinated with language and how words change with time.
"Best to listen to, not read, this book"
For those who are familiar with - and enjoy - McWhorter's lectures on Great Courses, you will want to listen to all his quirky tangents, fun affected accents, and crucial pronunciations. Trying to get all of this from the written page wouldn't work in my opinion. And the limits of written language is, like, one of his points. Found the content very interesting, but I am not a linguist and am not in position to judge the validity, novelty, etc. Certainly a fun listen though.
"Literally A Great Listen"
John McWhorter has an knack for explaining linguistic concepts engagingly. This time, he's focusing on how language changes over time--words changing meaning and pronunciation.
In a relatively short book, the reader/listener learns quite a bit. I also learned to relax a bit about the "right" way to say things. It still jars me to hear someone say, "I literally died!," but I don't get so irritated (or even aggravated).
The subject matter lends itself perfectly to the audio-book format, and McWhorter's narration is clear and enjoyable. I read some of the book, but it was so good to listen to that I didn't skip ahead after reading--I listened to the same parts that I had just read.
"Like I'm a language dork"
I so like John McWhoter's take on language and how it changes. It always beautiful or fascinating and never wrong.
It might not be practical but I sure enjoyed it.
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