Cover image for Talk on the wild side : why language can't be tamed
Title:
Talk on the wild side : why language can't be tamed
ISBN:
9781610398336
Personal Author:
Edition:
First US edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Public Affairs, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
232 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"The Economist. Books."
Contents:
Introduction: The Case of the Missing Whom -- Bringing the universe to order -- Is language logic? -- Machines for talking -- Buxom, but never nice -- Language tamers with armies and navies -- Whom in a biker bar -- Apologies to Orwell -- Conclusion: Weirder and more wonderful.
Summary:
"Language is a wild thing. It is vague and anarchic. Style, meaning, and usage are continually on the move. Throughout history, for every mutation, idiosyncrasy, and ubiquitous mistake, there have been countervailing rules, pronouncements and systems making some attempt to bring language to heel. From the utopian language-builder to the stereotypical grammatical stickler to the programmer trying to teach a computer to translate, Lane Greene takes the reader through a multi-disciplinary survey of the many different ways in which we attempt to control language, exploring the philosophies, motivations, and complications of each. The result is a highly readable caper that covers history, linguistics, politics, and grammar with the ease and humor of a dinner party anecdote. Talk on the Wild Side is both a guide to the great debates and controversies of usage, and a love letter to language itself. Holding it together is Greene's infectious enthusiasm for his subject. While you can walk away with the finer points of who says "whom" and the strange history of "buxom" schoolboys, most of all, it inspires awe in language itself: for its elegance, resourcefulness, and power."--publisher's description.
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Book 417 Green
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Book 417 Green
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Book 417 Green
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Summary

Summary

Language is the most human invention. Spontaneous, unruly, passionate, and erratic it resists every attempt to discipline or regularize it--a history celebrated here in all its irreverent glory.

Language is a wild thing. It is vague and anarchic. Style, meaning, and usage are continually on the move. Throughout history, for every mutation, idiosyncrasy, and ubiquitous mistake, there have been countervailing rules, pronouncements and systems making some attempt to bring language to heel.

From the utopian language-builder to the stereotypical grammatical stickler to the programmer trying to teach a computer to translate, Lane Greene takes the reader through a multi-disciplinary survey of the many different ways in which we attempt to control language, exploring the philosophies, motivations, and complications of each. The result is a highly readable caper that covers history, linguistics, politics, and grammar with the ease and humor of a dinner party anecdote.

Talk on the Wild Side is both a guide to the great debates and controversies of usage, and a love letter to language itself. Holding it together is Greene's infectious enthusiasm for his subject. While you can walk away with the finer points of who says "whom" and the strange history of "buxom" schoolboys, most of all, it inspires awe in language itself: for its elegance, resourcefulness, and power.


Author Notes

Lane Greene is an American journalist, best known for his work for The Economist and his book about the politics of language, You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity .


Reviews 1

Booklist Review

The language columnist at The Economist, Greene (You Are What You Speak, 2011) has a lot of metaphors for the nonconformity and wildness of language. It's a wolf, not a show dog. It's a recipe, not computer code. It's jazz, not classical music. Above all, it's a robust, organic and evolving phenomenon that needs relatively little intervention. The book is largely about (and for) those who do try to intervene, chief among them prescriptivist grammarians who create and strictly enforce codified grammar rules. Some of these efforts are benevolent and even utopian, like the creation of Esperanto and the logic-based Loglan. Others, like N. M. Gwynne and his best-selling Gywnne's Grammar (2014), Greene dismisses as grammar-grouches who fail to grasp language as the diverse ecosystem it is. Whether tackling why using they as a singular pronoun is so controversial, why it's so hard for computers to understand human language, or what's happening to whom, this slim and accessible treatise is rich with keen insights about the politics, pleasures, and possibilities of language. Recommended for linguaphiles and anyone looking for rhetorical ammunition against the grammar snobs in their life.--Chad Comello Copyright 2018 Booklist


Table of Contents

Introduction: The Case of the Missing Whomp. 1
1 Bringing the universe to orderp. 15
2 Is language logic?p. 32
3 Machines for talkingp. 65
4 Buxom, but never nicep. 92
5 Language tamers with armies and naviesp. 127
6 Whom in a biker barp. 156
7 Apologies to Orwellp. 183
Conclusion: Weirder and more wonderfulp. 208
Notesp. 217
Acknowledgementsp. 223
Indexp. 225