AlterNet has an excerpt from the new book "Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and Like, Whatever," by Leslie Savan. Here's a teaser:
What makes a word a pop word? First of all, we're not talking mere cliches. Most pop phrases are indeed cliches -- that is, hackneyed or trite. But a pop phrase packs more rhetorical oomph and social punch than a conventional cliche. It's the difference, say, between It's as plain as the nose on your face and Duh, between old hat and so five minutes ago. Pop is the elite corps of cliches.You can quiz yourself on your pop-language knowledge here.
And for a little bit heavier reading, try out this essay on the part language is playing in the French riots (thanks, Phillip).
Although we have seen countless images of cars burning in the poor and segregated suburbs of France, we have not heard much about the war of words that has accompanied them. Yet when you pay attention to the words, you begin to realize that the second- and third-generation French-African and French-Arab youths burning cars are a lot more French than they may be willing to acknowledge. As true Frenchmen, they understand the importance of discourse. Maybe to their detriment, they seem to parse the fine nuances of every word; then they fight back bitterly--especially over having the last word, le dernier mot.