CRAZY TALK, STUPID TALK: How We Defeat Ourselves by the Way We Talk--and What to Do About It by Neil Postman

CRAZY TALK, STUPID TALK: How We Defeat Ourselves by the Way We Talk--and What to Do About It

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Postman is a professor of communication at NYU, and Crazy Talk and Stupid Talk are his labels for the kinds of speech that obscure purpose and meaning in a ""semantic environment."" Repetitious and slightly overstated, this is his attempt to improve not grammar and pronunciation but the sense and directness of everyday speech. Postman identifies the problem by using apt quotations, from Gordon Cooper's prayer during his 17th orbit to Werner Erhard's est gibberish to this college administrator's letter: ""We are pleased to inform you that your scholarship for the (coming) academic year has been canceled."" He also describes common faults and errors--reification, propaganda, sloganeering, euphemisms, verbal inflation and mystification--18 in all. How to avoid the pitfalls of poor speech? Metasemantics, a greater awareness of semantic environments, their purposes and priorities. He presents valid examples to support his argument--statements that reflect muddled thinking or represent serious contradictions--but his solution is inadequate for counteracting illogical thought processes. Postman, who writes secondary school textbooks on this subject, edited Language in America (1969) which covers some of the same territory from more striking perspectives.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1976
Publisher: Delacorte