An Examination of Words

Posted Jan 6, 2017

We use words to communicate every day, but for those of us who aren’t linguists, we probably don’t think too much about language.  Here are three books that take a closer look at the way we talk:    

How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland

Did you know that Wisconsin is the linguistic crossroads of the Midwest, the only state in which all three Midwestern accents are spoken?  Researcher and author Edward McClelland explains these accents and more in his book How to Speak Midwestern.  Some of the things McClelland addresses include how German words influenced the meaning of English words; how the Netflix series Making a Murderer displays the state’s regional dialect differences; and why terms such as “bubbler,” “Hodag,” “Julebukk” and “fish boil” are either unique to Wisconsin, or originated here.

Edward McClelland will be on Tuesday, January 24th at 7:00 PM.  Join us to learn more about How to Speak Midwestern and his research.

Junk English by Ken Smith

According to author Ken Smith, the English language is deteriorating as mindless jargon, euphemisms, and empty rhetoric become more and more common in everyday dialogue.  Stressing that junk English is like junk food, Smith provides plenty of examples of cheapened words, fat-ass phrases, and free-for-all verbs.  Making no qualms about being judgmental, Smith hopes to raise awareness of our grammatical blunders to make us more conscientious of the language we choose to use.

Wicked Good Words: From Johnnycakes to Jug Handles, a Roundup of America’s Regionalisms by Mim Harrison

Organized by region, Mim Harrison’s pocket-sized reference book Wicked Good Words will have you speaking American in no time.  For example, learn to use phrases like “fine as a frog’s hair,” “half a bubble off plumb,” and “in the toolies.”  This collection of colloquial, random, and obscure vocabularies is both fun and enjoyable to explore, illustrating that despite globalization, regionalism is still strong as an ox.  Harrison also provides usage examples and explanations of how words and phrases developed to fully emphasize meanings to make a well-rounded read.    

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