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Going Nucular: Language, Politics and Culture in Confrontational Times
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Going Nucular: Language, Politics and Culture in Confrontational Times

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  178 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The Fresh Air commentator and New York Times contributor artfully shows how our use of language reveals the true mindset of contemporary America. The words that echo through Geoffrey Nunberg's brilliant new journey across the landscape of American language evoke exactly the tenor of our times. Nunberg has a wonderful ear for the new, the comic and the absurd. He pronounces ...more
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published May 14th 2004 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2004)
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Going Nucular is a collection of essays and commentaries that originally appeared mostly in the New York Times or on Fresh Air (NPR), along with a couple original pieces, each about five pages long. This makes the whole book very light and enjoyable, and easy to breeze through pretty quickly, but nearly all the essays are still very interesting and Nunberg is as always spot-on in his linguistic observations. There is a progressive bent, as in his other material, but it doesn't matter so much if ...more
Does President Bush drives you nuts every time you hear him mispronounce 'nuclear'? Think he's just a moron? Geoffrey Nunberg explains the real reason he says 'nucular''s more insidious than you think. This book is funny (not just dry grammatical stuff, although the author is a serious linguist) and explores what language reveals about our changing attitudes. Like, wow.
A phenomenal collection of Nunberg’s columns on subtle contemporary uses of language. The titular example: Nunberg was one of the first to argue (among other things) that George W. Bush’s stubborn refusal to accept the correct pronunciation is an effort to remind everyone that we have, colloquially, “nukes.” Lot of fun observations like that, well argued and well written.
Ronald Wise
A dangerously enjoyable collection of the author’s more interesting commentaries – from both radio and print – regarding the origin and/or evolution of how certain words are used in our modern discourse. It was enjoyable to read the brief stories behind many of the changes I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. The danger is that it brought me the verge of obsessively pursuing my own investigations into how additional manipulative verbal associations have been cultivated and employed since this book was ...more
Nunberg, a humanities professor and NPR commentator, sometimes gets too clever, as when he says we've gone "from courtly love to Courtney Love"--ah, don't go there, Teach--but as a rule he wears his learning lightly, making GOING NUCULAR an entertaining and enlightening experience for anyone interested in the current state of the English language. I prefer this book to his TALKING RIGHT, in which he makes the inevitable complaint about how Mike Dukakis should have responded ANGRILY to Bernard Sh ...more
Apr 15, 2009 Irene rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in language
Recommended to Irene by: Philip Rideout
It's a fascinating collection of short articles about how words are used in the English language, particularly how the connotations of words develop and change as Americans use them within specific contexts. Nunberg covers the gamut from politics (discussing the use of words like "freedom," "fascist," and "compromise") to business (contemplating the rise of "vision statements" and jargon like "best of breed" and "thought-leading research") to popular culture (defending the validity of "like" and ...more
Stephanie W
Going Nucular is an amazing collection of Nunberg's essays from 2003 on a variety of subjects involving media and political speech. He introduces a variety of new thoughts including the idea of "thinkos" expressed in his chapter "Going Nucular".

Although not as closely related to nuclear policy as one might hope given the title, it provides a wonderfully informative, often amusing account of political language. Moreover, it brings back memories of the Bush years and delightful SNL skits
Mary Whisner
Delightful short pieces ("Fresh Air" commentaries and newspaper pieces) on language. I particularly liked the one about the negative branding of "liberal." Why is it that newspapers use "middle-class liberals" and "middle-class Democrats" with about the same frequency, but hardly ever say "working class liberals"? (That term is outnumbered by "working-class Democrats" about 30-1.)
Apr 10, 2011 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Werd Nerds
A must read for word nerds and those who take interest in culture and politics. Sprinkled with humor and astute observations, Nunberg's essays not only describe the evolution of various words and phrases, but puts in to context the new ones, bringing clarity to terms we hear frequently but never give much thought to in regards to their origins. Fantastic. I hearted it. -=0)
Travelling Cari
Aug 01, 2007 Travelling Cari is currently reading it
I read The Way We Talk Now [] about a year and a half ago and quite enjoyed it. Have had this book for nearly three years and have meant to read it, just never quite happened. Picked it up the other night and have enjoyed it so far.
Marc van Bree
An interesting collection of essays, covering a vast array of themes and topic. Most of them are interesting, some more than others, but all of them only scratch the surface and aren't nearly as in-depth as I would have liked. Pop culture linguistics.
Michal Wigal
Some great musings on how the meanings and uses of different words has changed over time. Delves into how politicians change the meanings of words to suit their needs.
Jul 14, 2009 Kyla marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
currently v disappointed for choosing a different book over this one on my last trip to the bookstore. the one I chose does not live up to its back cover.
interesting history/study of current buzzwords and phrases. i have to admit, the authors vocabulary was a little over my head at times.
An interesting book about language. It was thought provoking. I especially liked the essay about the word "like" and its usage.
Excellent, accessible essays on the use of language, pronunciation, and grammar in contemporary society, particularly politics.
Oct 31, 2007 Ryan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: linguists, both passing and professional
Shelves: non-fiction
short essays on the ever changing uses and definitions of words, especially during wartime. this is great bathroom reading.
Bonnie Jeanne
Going Nucular: Language, Politics. and Culture in Confrontational Times by Geoffrey Nunberg (2005)
very interesting and pithy, if not annoyingly Left picking on needlessly easy targets at times.
Terrific short essays on the culture of language and the language of culture.
Jan 12, 2009 Peggy added it
i had a very interesting linguistics prof who assigned this book
Interesting essays on culture and language.
Stefan Castino
A little sprawly. Interesting though.
DAO added it
May 19, 2015
Sheila added it
May 14, 2015
Marv Dc
Marv Dc marked it as to-read
May 04, 2015
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Geoff Nunberg is a linguist and professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information in Berkeley, California, USA. He is also a frequent contributor to the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air".
More about Geoffrey Nunberg...
Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times- Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show The Way We Talk Now: Commentaries on Language and Culture from NPR's Fresh Air Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years The Years of Talking Dangerously The Future of the Book

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