Charlene's Reviews > The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

The Secret Life of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker
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's review
May 12, 2012

really liked it
Read on May 12, 2012

Can't say enough about this book!

James Pennebaker takes the reader into computational linguistics with wit and wisdom. He and his research team have used powerful computer programs to count the frequency of the words we use.

One of Pennebaker’s most intriguing sections deals with the psycholinguistic changes that occur after traumatic events. He studied more than 70,000 blog entries written by more than 1,000 bloggers in the two weeks before and after the 9/11 attacks and found that the use of first-person pronouns dropped dramatically after the attacks as people paid less attention to themselves and focused more on the victims and the country at large.

He also studied the work of 18 poets, nine of whom committed suicide, and found that the suicidal writers used far more “I”-related pronouns than the others.

Another bit of information he came up with is that people of higher social status use fewer I-words than people of lower status.

"A drop in the use of I-words can also indicate that a political leader is about to carry out a threat. He found patterns in the words of Harry Truman before dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the speeches of Adolf Hitler before he invaded Poland!"
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