Friday, March 3, 2023

Book Review: Like, Literally, Dude

Paranoid about the “ums” and “uhs” that pepper your presentations? Concerned that people notice your vocal fry? Bewildered by “hella” or the meteoric rise of “so”? What if these features of our speech weren’t a sign of cultural and linguistic degeneration, but rather, some of the most dynamic and revolutionary tools at our disposal?

In Like, Literally, Dude, linguist Valerie Fridland shows how we can re-imagine these forms as exciting new linguistic frontiers rather than our culture’s impending demise. With delightful irreverence and expertise built over two decades of research, Fridland weaves together history, psychology, science, and laugh-out-loud anecdotes to explain why we speak the way we do today, and how that impacts what our kids may be saying tomorrow. She teaches us that language is both function and fashion, and that though we often blame the young, the female, and the uneducated for its downfall, we should actually thank them for their linguistic ingenuity.

Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English will be published on April 18, 2023. Penguin Group/Viking publishing provided an early galley for review.

As a lifelong amateur writer myself, I have always had a thing for language and its uses. It is no surprise that my favorite class in school was English. The topic alone was enough to draw me to the book, yet I really like the cover design here as well. With the colors and layout, it will definitely speak to readers and draw them in.

As a sociolinguist, Fridland correlates changes in language to changes in societal cultures. She manages to deliver this in a scholarly manner that is engaging to the lay-reader. I learned a lot about filled pauses ("uh" and "um"), discourse markers ("like") and intensifiers ("literally"); reading her book was akin to taking an introductory course on linguistics.

I very much enjoyed the history of the usage of "dude". I found the discussion on "in' versus ing" to be illuminating (it applied directly to what I often found myself doing when writing dialogue for certain characters in my own fiction).

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