Talk on the Wild Side: Why Language Can’t Be Tamed by Lane Greene
Published: November 6, 2018
Publisher: The Economist
Genres: non fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Recommend to fans of: language, learning new info, fun facts, English majors, grammar
Foodie Vibes: afternoon tea served exactly the correct way
Language is the most human invention. Spontaneous, unruly, passionate, and erratic it resists every attempt to discipline or regularize it–a history celebrated here in all its irreverent glory.
Language is a wild thing. It is vague and anarchic. Style, meaning, and usage are continually on the move. Throughout history, for every mutation, idiosyncrasy, and ubiquitous mistake, there have been countervailing rules, pronouncements and systems making some attempt to bring language to heel.
From the utopian language-builder to the stereotypical grammatical stickler to the programmer trying to teach a computer to translate, Lane Greene takes the reader through a multi-disciplinary survey of the many different ways in which we attempt to control language, exploring the philosophies, motivations, and complications of each. The result is a highly readable caper that covers history, linguistics, politics, and grammar with the ease and humor of a dinner party anecdote.
Talk on the Wild Side is both a guide to the great debates and controversies of usage, and a love letter to language itself. Holding it together is Greene’s infectious enthusiasm for his subject. While you can walk away with the finer points of who says “whom” and the strange history of “buxom” schoolboys, most of all, it inspires awe in language itself: for its elegance, resourcefulness, and power.
Thank you to NetGalley, the Economist, and Lane Green for an ARC copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.
Talk on the Wild Side is an interesting foray into the world of ever evolving languages. Yes, languages are evolving. And no, that’s not a bad thing. I learned that language changes to better suit the needs of the speakers. Formal language is not necessarily better than informal, but more about the context. Formal language is more appropriate when writing an essay for English class. Informal is appropriate for family gatherings.
While these seem like such basic concepts, the book explains them in a more in depth manner. Teaching me new things throughout. Some of the concepts presented require an English major background, in theory, but the author explains it so well that most people will understand the nuances concepts. I also found it interesting to see the change of language over time in relation to historical, cultural and political influences. Speaking of politics, the section on language and political campaigns was fascinating and a bit terrifying.
However, as interesting as many parts were, other sections still went over my head and also bored me. The chapters about tech and language, and creating brand new languages didn’t intrigue me. Personal preference though.
All in all, an intriguing foray into the world of language. How we use it, why it changes and people’s thoughts about it.
Which languages do you speak?
I’m fluent in English, my first language.
I learned French in high school and can remember some, but am no where near fluent.
How about you?