My kind of summer reading
The Chicago Tribune reviews two books that are great for word mavens. One, Barbara Wallraff's "Your Own Words," I should have mentioned here long ago. It's a usage manual -- and I have way too much fun reading usage manuals.
The review says:
While Wallraff has a healthy appetite for lengthy lexical hunts, she doesn't lose sleep over violations of minor rules or antiquated standards. To a reader who is distraught about the prevalence of "proactive," Wallraff replies that the word has been around since the 1930s, and advises, "I'm not saying you have to use it or even like it, but good grief, lighten up!"Funny how these topics all cycle back through here.
The second book, "Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times," is by Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg. It's more linguistic sampler than usage manual -- but covers topics just as important for copy editors to think about. C'mon, we are the keepers of the language.
Nunberg is content to describe the history and constantly changing character of words and their meanings. Since the selections in "Going Nucular" date back to 2001, the book serves as a map of the lexical landscape after Sept. 11, with commentaries on "patriotism," "infidel," "evil" and the lyrics of the national anthem.I'm looking forward to reading both of these. It'll be a nice change from the good but fluffy "Good in Bed" and "In Her Shoes" by former Inky reporter Jennifer Weiner that I just finished.
Nunberg also poses some questions on topics of less gravity. Why do we speak of African-American or working-class Democrats but never of African-American or working class liberals? It's as though "liberal" connotes not only politics but also privilege, he writes.
Any other suggestions, word-related or not?