Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door

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"Talk to the hand, 'cause the face ain't listening," the saying goes. When did the world stop wanting to hear? When did society stop valuing basic courtesy and respect? It's a topic that has been simmering for years, and Lynne Truss says it's now reached the boiling point. Taking on the boorish behavior that for some has become a point of pride, Talk to the Hand is a rallying cry for civility.

When did "please" and "thank you" become passé? When you call a "customer service" number, why does the burden of ...

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"Talk to the hand, 'cause the face ain't listening," the saying goes. When did the world stop wanting to hear? When did society stop valuing basic courtesy and respect? It's a topic that has been simmering for years, and Lynne Truss says it's now reached the boiling point. Taking on the boorish behavior that for some has become a point of pride, Talk to the Hand is a rallying cry for civility.

When did "please" and "thank you" become passé? When you call a "customer service" number, why does the burden of deciphering the automatic switchboard fall to you (and where are the real people, when you, the customer, need service)? Why do people behave as if public spaces are their own chip-strewn living rooms? Perhaps most importantly, how has it come to be that we are not allowed to object? Call someone out on rude or disrespectful behavior and you're likely to get an "Eff off" or worse. In a recent U.S. survey, 79 percent of adults said that lack of courtesy was a serious problem. For all of those fed up with anti-social behavior and suffering in silence, realize that you are the majority! Talk to the Hand is a colorful call to arms-from the wittiest defender of the civilized world.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
According a CNN report, 79 percent of Americans think that lack of courtesy is a serious problem. To Brighton, England, resident Lynne Truss, "serious problem" hardly covers this manners catastrophe. The famously meticulous author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves contends that rudeness is a rampant epidemic that undermines what remains of civilization. Her Talk to the Hand provides a "zero tolerance" manual on wretchedly bad behavior, from cell phone exhibitionism to "Talk to the hand, 'cause the face isn't listening" obstinacy.
Bob Morris
Do you feel unappreciated for holding doors open? Are you barely able to keep yourself from knocking down errant skateboarders? Do you ask cabdrivers to turn down radio talk shows and mutter viciously when young people saunter four abreast on the sidewalk…Well, without knocking anyone down on the way, hurry to the bookstore…for a copy of Talk to the Hand. Lynne Truss, the finger-wagging stickler from England who lamented the collapse of punctuation in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, has returned with a rant about manners.
—The New York Times Book Review
Behind Truss's larky manner, she's a fiery vigilante.
New York Times
Ms. Truss's witty analysis and fussbudget tactics" are "contagious.
USA Today
Truss is an entertaining well-read scold in a culture that could use more scolding.
Boston Sunday Globe
Truss is "a reformer with the soul of a stand-up comedian."
Village Voice
You'll find her outrage supremely vindicating.
Publishers Weekly
This isn't a book about good manners, per se. Instead, the British author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves sets out "to mourn... the apparent collapse of civility in all areas of our dealing with strangers; then to locate a tiny flame of hope in the rubble." It's a plea to show some consideration to others, especially in certain areas: (1) "Was That So Hard to Say?" ("thank you"); (2) "Why am I the One Doing This?" (e.g., punching doggedly through the automated switchboard); (3) "My Bubble, My Rules" (forcing others to listen to a private conversation on a mobile phone); (4) "The Universal Eff-Off Reflex" (outrage when antisocial behavior is pointed out); (5) "Booing the Judges" (active disrespect for the umpire, the older person, anyone in authority); and (6) "Someone Else Will Clean It Up" (e.g., rubbish tossed out the car window). Truss expounds on these themes with fine ire, mordant humor and many examples, but it must be said that the result is not so much a book as a heavily padded magazine article. Not that this will bother the many book buyers who will tuck it lovingly into the Christmas stockings of their somewhat discomfited nearest and dearest. Agent, Anthony Goff. (On sale Nov. 8) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her previous work, the best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Truss linked proper punctuation with respect for the English language. Now, she aims her wry wit at what she sees as the incivility of everyday life in the 21st century, as exemplified by the current expression, "Talk to the hand, coz the face ain't listening." Truss examines the death of civil language, the transfer of customer service from those who serve the customers to the customers themselves, the refusal to live by any rules but one's own, the pervasiveness of profanity, the dismissal of criticism, and the universal lack of responsibility. Each examination is not merely an opportunity to rant but a thoughtful and well-researched effort to understand the behavior. Two of the most engaging (and surprising) discussions focus on the public use of cell phones and the increasingly knee-jerk use of a certain profanity, in all its variations. Although Truss makes use of some British expressions and celebrities, and indeed concentrates more on Britain than the United States, American readers can nevertheless appreciate her passion and irreverence. Highly recommended for public libraries, especially where Eats, Shoots & Leaves has been popular.-M.C. Duhig, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641828959
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/8/2005
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.42 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynne Truss

Lynne Truss is a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor with a blue pencil and then got sidetracked. The author of three novels and numerous radio comedy dramas, she spent six years as the television critic of The Times of London, followed by four (rather peculiar) years as a sports columnist for the same newspaper. She won Columnist of the Year for her work for Women’s Journal. Lynne Truss also hosted Cutting a Dash, a popular BBC Radio 4 series about punctuation. She now reviews books for the Sunday Times of London and is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Brighton, England.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : when push comes to shove 1
1 Was that so hard to say? 41
2 Why am I the one doing this? 67
3 My bubble, my rules 93
4 The universal eff-off reflex 121
5 Booing the judges 145
6 Someone else will clean it up 175
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Lynne Truss

Barnes & Talk to the Hand is the follow-up to your mega-bestseller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which took on the subject of bad punctuation. What made you decide to now take on bad manners?

Lynne Truss: I thought I shouldn't write another book on language straight away, mainly because I feared it would make me so self-conscious about my own writing that I'd have to give up the literary life completely and tend goats in the Tyrol instead. I also thought the time was right for a book on rudeness.

What I lament in Talk to the Hand is the feeling that people aren't prepared to meet each other half-way any more -- and this links quite firmly with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, because a badly punctuated email is a failure in the writer to meet the reader half-way. Punctuation is a form of courtesy! The other reason I wanted to write about rudeness, of course, is that it's a subject I felt I could be funny about.

B& Do you think E, S & L achieved its goal? Or did you wind up becoming appalled by bad punctuation in the fan letters you received?

LT: We may never know what the impact of Eats, Shoots & Leaves was, aside from making a lot of sticklers feel less embarrassed about themselves. Obviously, it did create an interest in punctuation, which was a pretty amazing feat. All the fan letters were meticulously punctuated, I am relieved to say, but they were depressing for another reason: I became a global scapegoat for the horrors of the decline of written English, and for a while I felt that it really was my individual destiny to save the printed word. However, I'm feeling a lot better now; almost normal. In fact, yesterday I spent quite some time gazing at the lettering on a little red van for "Pizza at it's best", and when I finally registered the rogue apostrophe, I found that I could cope with it quite well.

B& Are you in danger of becoming the patron saint of lost causes?

LT: You may be right.

B& Were you surprised that E, S & L did so well in the States?

LT: Everyone is surprised -- it is so uncompromisingly British in its references and its humour. There is a general belief that American readers simply will not read a book that has not been Americanised -- which is a bit insulting to the intelligence of American readers, if you ask me, and has been wonderfully disproved by its success.

B& You mention the plague of bad customer service in Talk to the Hand. Were you hoping that store clerks would start recognizing you and not be so rude?

LT: Perversely, while I was writing the book, I was always hoping that store clerks would be rude, to give me more material, but I kept having the opposite experience. Everywhere I went, people were friendly and helpful. It was like something out of a movie. "Good morning!" they all said. "How may I help you?" At the local store one evening, where I confidently expected to get some very bad service indeed, I watched in dismay while the young server actually took the arm of an infirm old man and helped him out to his car. I was furious to see such courtesy and kindness, especially in a young person. It was intensely frustrating.

B& You've done a lot of publicity touring. Which country would you say is the rudest, and which is the most polite?

LT: Despite my habit of generalising, I find I can't generalise about this. However, I did meet a very rude woman radio interviewer in New Zealand. I managed not to be rude back to her, but I was delighted to hear that a subsequent British interviewee walked off her show, telling her that she had her head up her bottom.

At the other end of the scale, I appreciated the etiquette, in Hong Kong and Singapore, of presenting a book with both hands and a little bow. A young man in Hong Kong asked me to sign his book, "To Eric, I love you, Lynne Truss." And I was so impressed by the courteous way that he asked me, I did it.

B& Are Brits becoming less civilized?

LT: Oh yes. Blimey, yes. Don't come here, it's awful.

B& It seems like no one wants to come out and say they're sorry anymore -- why do you think that is?

LT: My theory is that it's mainly to do with status. People simply refuse to lose face. So when they are patently in the wrong, and it is pointed out to them, they are hostile and abusive instead of apologising. As a corollary to that, people who are big enough to apologise get no credit for it; on the contrary, they are regarded, contemptuously, as idiots. Apology is merely a sign of weakness. This is a complete reversal of values, and it makes me want to cry, just thinking about it.

B& How much has the Internet contributed to this rampant rudeness?

LT: A lot, in my opinion. I have several beefs with the Internet. First, it isn't good for people to spend a lot of time in a virtual community. They forget how to interact with real people. The Internet also encourages egocentricity, which leads to contempt for other people, especially strangers.

What I particularly object to is the way the Internet presents itself as the repository of all knowledge, with which one can interact. In fact, of course, it holds only the information that other people have placed on it. And our way of conversing with it -- of doing all the hard work of searching for stuff on it, and never being able to ask a question -- is very bad for our general sense of alienation.

B& Are our manners destined to get progressively worse?

LT: I think manners are being radically redefined. I offend people all the time, I'm sure of it, because I insist on breaking into their personal space and reminding them they are in public. I think tensions of this sort are bound to worsen -- unless, of course, we all stay at home and bolt the door! Someone said to me the other day that he was so relieved when his bank installed automatic doors, so that he would no longer have the misery of holding doors for people who didn't say thank you. That's quite sad, when you think about it.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    I bought it for a dollar at the Dollar Tree.

    I haven't read it yet, but I didn't spend much of anything on it. So if it it isn't good, I won't mind as much.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 31, 2009

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