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text 2017-04-28 22:45
A bit scientific but a book for lovers of words, all words
What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves - Benjamin K. Bergen

A couple of books published recently have tackled the heretofore taboo yet titillating topic of taboo/profane words. This is the one that I just happened to buy but I guess that it could have been anyone of them. The title was read by the author and I usually avoid self-read titles because just because you can write beautifully doesn't mean that you are pleasant to listen to for multiple hours. Bergen is an exception to the rule; he reads as well as he writes. The book is nicely organized. It has a basis in scientific research and is filled with anecdotal evidence to support the points he is trying to make. He writes for a broad audience not academia.

 

Warning, if you hearing/reading taboo/obscene/profane language in any context offends, this book might not be for you. Bergen's over-all intent is not to offend but to explore the topic and discuss its social ramifications. Four-letter words are here to stay; we might as well learn a little bit more about them.

 

If nothing else, this book made me think and it made me want to set my thoughts to paper. I don't have a problem with declaring some words to be taboo--particularly slurs. In fact, I am actually in favor of it. Except for slurs, I also don't have a problem with judiciously using taboo words in my own speech. However, I think that one should not use them with impunity (that is the way I was brought up); there is a time and a place and an appropriate audience. I still don't drop f-bombs in front of my parents, who I don't think I have ever heard use the word, and I don't regularly sprinkle my speech them (to the effect that when I use them, they are powerful!). I don't full agree with Bergen's take on our attempts to censor speech.  I'm in favor of censorship on the airwaves and of ratings of TV, movies and videogames that protect my right not to have to hear any of these words or to have my children hear these words. It should be up to me when I want to hear taboo speech and under what circumstances. I'm not against free speech; I'm just against those who think that just because they say it that others want to hear it or even have to react positively to their utterances. If you insist on peppering each sentence you utter with f-bombs this that and the other, you will soon find that we aren't having very many conversations. Daddy always said that smart people don't need to use taboo language to express themselves and that has always formed the way I try to speak. But yeah, I'm no goody-two-shoes; I do have my moments.

 

 

 

 

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text 2017-04-12 18:10
Today's daily deal on Audible...
What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves - Benjamin K. Bergen

I'm on a winning streak. This is he second "Daily Deal" this month. And oddly enough, both of them have been titles that are being read by the author, something I tend to avoid because good authors aren't necessarily good narrators. But I listened to the sample before deciding to buy and surprisingly, both authors weren't half bad.

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text 2017-01-23 15:34
Dinner Table Talk
Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse , and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide - Josh Katz
You're Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words--and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse - Ross Petras,Kathryn Petras

We are a linguistically blended American Family. DH and I grew up in Philadelphia but raised our children in Boston, thus our children speak a mix of regional dialects. Now add to the mix my son-in-law who is from Connecticut.

 

I brought these two books out at dinner time (dessert actually) and we had a hoot going through both of them, especially the very graphic Speaking American. It was interesting to listening to my children commenting on the various words that they used and didn't use and even more on the words that we used but that they later discovered when they went off to college that nobody else used.

 

For me, the most interesting page was the one about telling time. How do you say "3:45"? Do you say "Three forty-five" or "Quarter to four" or "Quarter of four" or "Quarter til four"? I decided that I would say "It's quarter to four" but that I would also say "It's quarter of" if not specifying a given hour.

 

I still haven't sat down to read it cover to cover but sharing it with my adult children was a lot of fun.

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text 2016-10-20 09:42
Language and Space - Lynn Nadel,Mary A. Peterson,Paul Bloom

NR: Bloom et al. (eds.) - Language and Space

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review 2016-08-01 03:51
Invader by C.J. Cherryh
Invader - C.J. Cherryh

Invader picks up pretty much where Foreigner left off. Bren is barely out of surgery before he's called back to work. The starship Phoenix, the one that originally brought humans to the planet, has reappeared, and everyone is concerned. What do the ship folk want? Does Mospheira plan to deal with them and, if so, where does that leave the Treaty with the atevi?

Bren, still in a bit of pain (and, at the very beginning, foggy due to pain killers), finds himself in an extremely difficult position. Deana Hanks, his eventual successor, took over his job after Tabini stashed him away during the events of the previous book, and now she refuses to leave even though it puts her in violation of the Treaty. Hanks and her backers in the State Department believe that Bren has gone native and is no longer looking out for Mospheira's best interests. Hanks would oust Bren and become the new paidhi, except Tabini absolutely refuses to talk to her and would in fact have had her killed already if Bren hadn't specifically asked him not to. Although Bren is now getting much more information from Tabini and his bodyguards than he was in the first book, people are still keeping things from him, and he's almost completely blocked from communicating with the Foreign Office back in Mospheira.

Although he knows that he might be labeled a traitor, Bren offers to act as translator between the ship folk and the atevi. He has to convince the atevi that Mospheira won't automatically betray them in favor of the ship folk, clean up Hanks' political and linguistic messes, and figure out a solution to the ship problem that has the highest chance of being mutually beneficial to Mospheira and the atevi, all while simultaneously dealing with personal crises, terrifying gaps in his knowledge, and assassination attempts.

I read Foreigner a couple months ago and thought it was good, but frustrating. I absolutely loved Invader. The overall story seemed smoother, and Bren finally had the opportunity to show that he was extremely good at his job.

In the first book, Bren was an emotional mess stuck in a situation where his skills as paidhi were less immediately important than his bodyguards' ability to keep him safe. He received little-to-no useful information from anyone and basically had to operate blind. Since he was the POV character, readers had to operate blind too. It was uncomfortable, and I was so relieved to find that things were better in this book. Yes, Tabini's people censored what information they gave him, but they didn't keep him completely in the dark the way they did in the first book. His ability to communicate with Mospheira was hobbled, but he at least got enough information to speculate about what was going on.

I love characters who are really good at their jobs. In this book, Bren got to shine. I loved reading about him figuring out how to explain human thought processes in ways he figured the atevi would understand. I loved seeing the logic behind the arguments he used. I really loved Bren's first real-time translation between the ship folk and the atevi, and the mental and emotional shifts he had to go through in order to do that. Invader provided a bit more detail about how Ragi, the dominant atevi language worked –  a combination of the usual vocabulary and grammar, plus a crap ton of mental math. Speaking of which, I was surprised that Bren didn't tell the ship folk that whichever person they assigned to learn Ragi should ideally be excellent at math.

Bren was at least as much of an emotional mess in this book as he was in the first one, but I enjoyed it more here – again, seeing him be good at his job helped a lot. The stuff with Barb was only a matter of time, anyway, and it was a relief to get it over and done with. Bren's emotional meltdowns were understandable considering the amount of stress he was under (and the amount of pain he was often in, plus his lack of sleep), and he very carefully made sure that those meltdowns only showed in front of the atevi he trusted most. And his "meltdowns" weren't actually all that bad compared to some of the things Hanks did. Refusing to pick up when Bren called her? Insisting on speaking Mosphei' so that she could snarl at Bren in front of an atevi audience? No wonder Tabini wanted to kill her.

Bren's desire to trust certain atevi led to additional problems, as he found himself fighting his instinct to assign human motivations to atevi behavior. He got along well with Tabini, Banichi, Jago, Tano and others, but him liking them and them seeming, from a human perspective, to like him didn't mean that they wouldn't one day do something that would seem to him like betrayal. He grappled with the possibility that Tabini and Ilisidi were using his human-ness against him, acting in ways they knew would cause him to drop his guard and trust them with more than he possibly should.

And then there was the stuff with Jago. That would be ethically and professionally problematic if he were a diplomat among humans, and certainly the people back in Mospheira wouldn't react well. Among atevi, he had no clue how any of it would be interpreted. I'm torn. On the one hand, I'm all “No, Bren, no!” On the other hand, I'm looking forward to the possibility of getting a better peek into atevi emotional lives. I want more than Bren's staff's reaction to him giving them gifts, Bren's unintentional popularity with atevi women, and even Tabini and Damiri's fascinating domestic squabble.

I suppose you could say this book was slow, but Bren's internal worrying, panic, and mental gymnastics made the pacing feel much faster than it was. At any rate, I enjoyed the story, the characters, the politics, the linguistic and cultural details, and the relationships, even when I had trouble following all the details. I'm glad I already have the second book, and I suspect I should put in an order for the next story arc soon.

Extras:

  • Pronunciation guide (I'm resigned to forever mentally pronouncing Jago's name incorrectly - my brain seems to be unwilling to follow what the guide says is correct)
  • Declension of a sample noun
  • Glossary

 

(Original review, including read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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