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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Language: We use it, abuse it, and misuse it every day. It means different things to different people. To Stanford University linguist Geoffrey Nunberg it's the pulse of human nature. Few people happily obsess on language the way Nunberg does, taking to heart and mind the way our culture chooses (or in some cases, haphazardly butchers) its words.
In his collection of short essays, The Way We Talk Now: Commentaries on Language and Culture, culled from National Public Radio's Fresh Air, Nunberg cleverly deconstructs what most of us take for granted by sharing personal anecdotes, such as choosing the name of his daughter Sophie ("And then two weeks before the baby was due, we were watching an episode of Thirtysomething where one of the characters had gotten herself a cat and named it Sophie"), revealing the little-known origin of words ("The word suburb actually goes back to the late Middle Ages when it referred to the areas outside the city walls where people relegated a host of illicit and noxious activities -- the tanneries and slaughterhouses, the gambling dens and bordellos"), and commentating on the latest technology-speak ("E-commerce, e-cash, e-trade -- those are words you hear when you hang out around South Park in San Francisco, where five thousand twenty-somethings are milling around waving business plans for companies to sell nail polish on the Web").
Nunberg isn't smug, though. He admits that even he can't distinguish the difference between on behalf of and in behalf of. He conjures the expertise of wordsmiths like Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster. With expertise, modesty, and clarity, Nunberg educates and entertains, and may even make you think before you speak. (Karen Mancuso)