Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Book review: You are what you speak

I’ve just finished reading an interesting book You are what you speak by Robert Lane Greene and as the cover states it’s all about grammar grouches, language laws and the politics of identity. I would recommend it just for the first couple of chapters.

I thought I would share with you some of the things that stood out for me, using a few quotes from the book which made me think even more about the power of language.

Talking about the tower of Babel:

But the most interesting part of this story is what it shows about the power of language in the eyes of its authors. God worries that with one common language for human kind, “nothing will be restrained from them”. This, remember, is God: He can flood the world, rain frogs on the Egyptians, turn rivers to blood, and raise the dead. Communication through language must be mighty indeed to worry the Supreme Being into doing something about it. (2011:4)

The idea that “rules” were more important than history, elegance, or actual practice – a zombielike prescriptivism that mindlessly sought out so-called mistakes – held writers and speakers in terror of making them. (2011:34)

Let the meaning choose the word and not the other way around. (Orwell)

Have you read this book?

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