Wajnryb is the grammarian you always wanted: wise, wearing her erudition lightly and enlivening it with sly, exegetic humor.



A classy drive through the streets and byways of swearing, from Australian linguist and journalist Wajnryb.

Wajnryb is out to have some fun here—witness the epigrams she concocted to introduce each chapter: “You want what on the fucking ceiling?” asks Michelangelo, while Amelia Earhart wonders, “So where the fuck are we?” As an applied linguist, she is fascinated by taboo language, and, while we’re treated to a wide array of foul word usage, she will also be delving into the semantics (meaning) and the pragmatics (context) of the usages. First, she identifies the meta-language of swearing—what cursing is as opposed to blasphemy, what epithets and expletives are, insults and invectives and oaths, what is obscene, what is profane, what is plain vulgar—only to wade immediately into the magisterial grammatical opportunities, the morphological flexibility, of the word “fuck.” “The word cunt,” on the other hand, “has never been innocent,” leastwise not for centuries, and a prime example of an inflexible swear word. Social usage, then, is Wajnryb’s concern as much as grammar is, and she will dissect the clean-equals-godliness equation with as much vigor as she might examine infinitives and gerunds. She explores swearing as meaningful verbal behavior, discusses its cathartic effect, identifies when it is abusive and when social and when it mingles the two. She notes the gender imbalance of expletives and the way snobbery and classism impinge on what is socially considered right and wrong in word use. She also takes on the word police, such as the Cuss Control Academy (an actual institute in Illinois), and shows how they are fighting a losing—not to say absurd and censorious—battle. The effect of taboo so often achieves its opposite: making words forbidden shows, like Prohibition, that people will go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish the proscribed, even producing gems like “frigamarole.”

Wajnryb is the grammarian you always wanted: wise, wearing her erudition lightly and enlivening it with sly, exegetic humor.

Pub Date: July 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7434-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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