English is the most creative, changeable and imaginative of languages. Some words are invented to meet temporary needs and are quickly discarded; others carry meanings hundreds of years old. Language fascinates us, and we spend a lot of time playing with it, concocting everything from puns, riddles and secret languages to wonderful prose and poetry. We also worry about it a great deal, looking up and checking words in dictionaries and usage guides, occasionally arguing about definitions. This book celebrates our capacity to play with language, as well as examining the ways we use it: in slang and jargon, swearing, speaking the unspeakable, or concealing unpleasant or inconvenient facts. It is a book for browsing, for finding beguiling snippets about language, history and social customs, and for using as a formidable weapon in word games.
Burridge (linguistics, Monash Univ., Australia), the author of several earlier books on Australian English, syntactic change, euphemism, and English grammar, is also a regular commentator on language for the Australian Broadcasting Company. In fact, this book is based on her call-in show about language. Burridge presents us with the seemingly limitless fascination English speakers exhibit for the language, the numerous ways in which we all joyfully work and play with it: punning; telling riddles; using slang, jargon, and secret languages; and examining, reexamining, and arguing about usage. While Burridge answers the questions posed by her radio interlocutors, she also deals with critical language topics such as word creation, meaning shifts, language change, colloquial vs. standard English, lexicography, and dirty and taboo language. Unique among books about the social aspects of the English language published in this decade, this work combines an impressive breadth and depth of learning with a common touch and a readable style. Appropriate for interested lay readers and students served by academic and public library collections.-Paul D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.