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The Years of Talking Dangerously

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  76 ratings  ·  18 reviews
“There has never been,” Nunberg writes, “an age as wary as ours of the tricks words can play, obscuring distinctions and smoothing over the corrugations of the actual world.... Yet as advertisers and marketers know, our mistrust of words doesn’t inoculate us against them.” These are the years of talking dangerously, and Nunberg is a sure guide to the pitfalls. With illumin ...more
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by PublicAffairs (first published April 17th 2009)
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3.45  · 
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 ·  76 ratings  ·  18 reviews


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David Dinaburg
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is a madeleine for 2004-2008, dredging up long-forgotten personal bits and thoughts.

These essays create the same crystallized moment in time as JFK, WTC; a burned-in afterimage of who-you-were-when that can only be recalled by engaging some outside source, an unfiltered reemergence of the mid-aught's cultural zeitgeist through the lens of lexicography that forces your focus on a particular spot in time.

Not every article covers life-shaping events, but even the "trivial" comes rolling
...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other
Collections of essays suffer from a lack of cohesiveness, consistency, and cogent purpose, and Nunberg's collection of essays collected from his New York Times' columns and NPR "Fresh Air" commentaries is an apt example of this flaw. The subject of language and vocabulary is especially susceptible to detailed and categorical organization (alphabetical, for example, in the case of a dictionary), so the scattershot results of an essay collection are also especially noticeable.

All of which might be
...more
Janet
May 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: grownup
This collection of previously published opinion essays from various periodicals and the NPR radio program "Fresh Air" offers a breezy survey of word use, phrase popularity, and ways of communicating from the years 2004-2008. Ten years later, many of the examples already seem nostalgically cute - like descriptions of the author's early interactions with Wikipedia and the developing language culture of the blogosphere. (Aawww.) The pointed wordsmithing of the G.W. Bush administration and other Rep ...more
Sarah
Mar 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a case where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Printing 5-minute radio pieces in book form might seem like a good idea (and maybe it would be, if it were an anthology such as This I Believe). In this case, unfortunately, the finished product feels a bit superficial and repetitive. After a while, I found myself thinking "and...?" at the end of each chapter.

One thing I did appreciate was the fact that he includes a word/phrase index, in addition to the usual subject index. So yo
...more
Ensiform
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, language
A collection of newspaper pieces and NPR commentaries on the foibles of modern English usage by the author, a linguist at Berkeley. The pieces - mostly on the uses of symbolic language by people with political points to make, some on how technology changes usage - are witty and erudite, and show Nurnberg's firm grasp on the political zeitgeist.

He makes his arguments in a breezy, engaging style; for example, in discussing how "conversation" can be used to mean more of a lecture than a discourse,
...more
Michelle Cristiani
Jan 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I love linguists, and I especially love Geoffrey Nunberg. He has a way of choosing everyday words - in this book, mostly political words - and combining linguistic history with social commentary. I'm always entertained by him, but this book - essays from the last years of the Bush presidency - fall a little flat now. Taken in one large dose instead of the intended individual pieces, it's too much to take in. But gems abound. The essay on wikipedia is brilliant (my favorite quote: "This isn't rig ...more
Adrienne
Jul 08, 2009 rated it liked it
I loved Geoffrey Nunberg's "The Way We Talk Now" in 2001. It was truly pop linguistics. My favorite essay was about slang and what part of speech a generation chose for its slang. He had a young daughter at the time and wrote a lot of essays about her learning to speak.

So I was very excited to stumble on this book. It shouldn't have surprised me that it was a lot of political linguistics. But I wanted more cultural commentary about linguistics after 9/11.

So, my rating is more about my own expec
...more
Kim
Jun 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I always like when linguist Geoffrey Nunberg is on "Fresh Air", and it was nice to read this collection of essays. Some essays would get two stars, some would get four, so I averaged it out. I most liked the essays about how the Bush administration manipulated language to fit its purposes ("enhanced interrogation", "Islamo-fascism", etc.).
Lucy
I always enjoy Geoffrey Nunberg on NPR's Fresh Air when I can catch him. These essays are the same text. Now rather dated (they were published in 2009 and aired or printed earlier), these reprints from newspaper articles and NPR broadcasts are still entertaining.
Chapters are: Watching our words; Playing politics; English 2.0; Symbols; The Passing scene.
Karen
May 06, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction
I read an interesting review of it.
Ann
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Lots of fun, very insightful. I always enjoy Nunberg on NPR; reading his commentary is equally as enjoyable, if not more, because I can read back and more fully understand his words.
Mike
Feb 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I'd give it more stars but it's simply a compilation of essays and editorials from Fresh Air and several newspapers. I do love his grasp and take on English and it's mis/use.
Mj
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
There were times when this book made me snort, chortle, and giggle. Many of it made me think :)
Jerry
May 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately his political leanings colors much of his observations on language. Where politics is not involved, there is interesting stuff.
NaiNai
The title disappoints--you expect some in-depth commentary on language, and all you get is a collection of op-ed language pieces.
Tara
Apr 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
Officially giving up on this book as of today. Mostly a series of dated pot-shots at a former president. Didn't hold my interest at all, even as a commuter-read.
Laura
May 06, 2009 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Laura by: Shelf Awareness
Great review in Shelf Awareness.
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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".