On the air and at the Empire State Book Festival

March 31, 2011

I was on WBAL in Baltimore today at 8:35 a.m., and will be on WAMC in Albany at 10:00, to talk about You Are What You Speak. [Update: WAMC archived here.] The latter is particularly well-timed: I’ll be on a fantastic-looking panel called “Watch Your Language” at the Empire State Book Festival in Albany on Saturday, April 2. With lexicographers Ben Zimmer, Peter Sokolowski and Joe Pickett, I’ll be talking about slang and dirty words in the dictionary and the wider society. With the OED including LOL and OMG recently, Sarah Palin saying WTF repeatedly on television, and the F-bomb making the Oscars, there’s never been a better moment to talk about about what role linguistic experts (such as Ben, Peter and Joe) should play with the language: chroniclers or guardians?

We’re on at 1:45 and the event is free. If you’re near Albany, stop in.

You Are What You Speak hits the airwaves

March 23, 2011

I did a very fun interview with Diane Rehm on Monday, archived here, which is no doubt the reason You Are What You Speak has jumped to number 1 in “Words & Language” on Much gratitude to Diane.

Today I’ll be recording The Takeaway at around 8:00 a.m. Eastern. It’s a bit of a debate format with a self-professed “grammar policewoman” – should be fun. And another hour-long show with some great questions, on Wisconsin Public Radio, can be downloaded here.

Intelligent Life, “Little Big Words”

March 16, 2011

“One way to gauge the prevalence of a word is to consult the Oxford English Corpus, a body of 2 billion words. ‘I’ comes in tenth; ‘you’ is 18th. They are not quite our two favourite subject pronouns: ‘he’ is 16th (‘she’ is 30th). But in the world of the 21st century, ‘you’ and ‘i’ are two very potent little words.

, as so often, got there first, launching the iMac in 1998. Steve Jobs, ’s boss, said that the ‘i’ was for ‘internet’—what most new computer-buyers were then buying computers for—while behind him the words ‘individual’, ‘instruct’, ‘inform’ and ‘inspire’ appeared on the screen. went on to ride the ‘i’ hard for the next 12 years, introducing the iBook, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Its software included an iLife suite with iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie. At that 1998 launch, Jobs coyly avoided making an obvious point: ‘i’ wasn’t really about the internet or anything else, it was about you.” [Read more.]

Discussion of You Are What You Speak at Book Court in Brooklyn

March 15, 2011

I’m pleased to be reading a bit from, and taking questions about, You Are What You Speak at one of my favorite bookstores anywhere, Book Court on Court Street in Brooklyn, this Thursday, March 17 at 7:00. For those tempted by a certain Irish holiday instead, there will be, alongside food and drinks, a little bit about Irish, the Gaelic language that Ireland has kept alive in the face of its mighty linguistic neighbor, English…

YOU ARE WHAT YOU SPEAK published today, and at NYU on Thursday, 3/10

March 8, 2011

The day has arrived! Buy You Are What You Speak at your favorite local store, online at or BN.com, or get it instantly on your favorite e-reader.

The first event, which I’m very excited about, will be a Q-and-A about language and identity on Thursday, March 10th, at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, with New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman.

On Sarah Palin’s use of language on National Grammar Day

March 6, 2011

“Palin is as masterly with language as Bush was not. She uses her unique way of speaking to devastating political effect. She has every confidence in her ability to reach her audience. Bush was reduced to half-apologizing for his stumbles. Palin owns them…” [Read more.] Note that my respect for Governor Palin’s ability to connect with her audience is not (remotely!) a political endorsement.