** Words On The Move by John McWorther

Linguists are interesting folks who love the smell of dictionaries… I’ve always loved dictionaries, from the first illustrated children’s dictionary my parents gave me when I could barely read (cute light blue polka dots on the cover!) but I cannot say that they smell any different from any other books. John McWorter can, and in  Words on the Move: Why English Won’t – and Can’t – Sit Still (Like, Literally) he shows off his knowledge of arcane languages including Saramaccan and Kham, to show that the much-hated use of  “like” of teenagers  is completely normal and even has a name, “modal pragmatic marker” (now who uses ugly language, teenagers or linguists?)  In another chapter, he demonstrates our meanings change over time, and have always done so, to the horror of contemporaries and full acceptance of later generations. The least successful chapter for me was the one about vowel shifts, which is greatly hampered by the spoken word and would benefit from a podcast rather than the written word. The rest is pure fun for word lovers.


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