Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English

Viking. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780593298329. $30. LANG
Psychology Today blogger Fridland’s (linguistics, Univ. of Nevada, Reno) book shines a light on the fascinating intersection of language forms and social needs. It illustrates how change has been a constant feature of the English language since its inception, and it shows the positive benefits of linguistic evolution over time. The book examines contemporary speech patterns fulfilling social needs. These include words to succinctly express approximation or quotation, such as “like”; to indicate newly heightened emphasis, as in “literally”; and to convey self-identified solidarity with a specific social group, as in “dude.” The desirability of such changes in language comes from the richness these new forms bring to English, despite the initial discomfort they cause to some. The author points out that even the most diehard grammar maven today is no longer speaking or writing in the language of Beowulf. With copious historical examples, the book explains that linguistic changes are often decried when new, but over time outrage gets muted, general usage absorbs the evolutions, which then become part of standard English. Fridland issues an open invitation to more deeply understand and celebrate the English language.
VERDICT Highly recommended for collections supporting communications and sociolinguistics.
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