Synopses & Reviews
In Doing Our Own Thing
, critically acclaimed linguist and cultural critic John McWhorter traces the precipitous decline of language in contemporary America, arguing persuasively that casual, everyday speech has conquered the formal in all arenas, from oratory to poetry to everyday journalismand has even had dire consequences for our musical culture. McWhorter argues that the swift and startling change in written and oral communication emanated from the countercultural revolution of the 1960s and its ideology that established forms and formality were autocratic and artificial. While acknowledging that the evolution of language is in and of itself inevitable and often benign, he warns that the near-total loss of formal expression in America is unprecedented in modern history, and has reached a crisis point in our culture in which our very ability to convey ideas and arguments effectively is gravely threatened.
By turns compelling and harrowing, passionate and judicious, Doing Our Own Thing is required reading for all concerned about the state of our languageand the future of intellectual life in America.
Illustrated with an entertaining array of examples from both high and low culture, the trend that Mr. McWhorter documents is unmistakable. The Economist
Provocative, funny. . . McWhorter suggests that prose ought to be something we decorate out of a basic sense of exuberance of living. Andrea Behr, San Francisco Chronicle
An entertaining and provocative analysis of the way we use language, while also suggesting that we should love it. Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News
McWhorter is a gifted young linguist who seeks to understand the change in our verbal habits rather than just bemoan it, and his analysis is insightful, richly documented and, yes, eloquently written. Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and The Language Instinct
About the Author
John McWhorter is an associate professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include Authentically Black, The Power of Babel, and the New York Times bestseller Losing the Race: Self- Sabotage in Black America, and his articles appear regularly in The New Republic and The Wall Street Journal.