Unspeak, by Steven Poole

I have just finished Steven Poole’s Unspeak, which is an excellent, impassioned, bitingly funny review of the way words are used to promote particular views of the world.

“Words have consequences in the world”, argues Poole in the epilogue, “…Unspeak itself does violence to meaning. It seeks to annihilate distinctions”. He explicitly distances himself from Lakoff’s ‘language frames’ view, where “the framing of the debate determines who will win the debate” (Howard Dean) and the only defense is prmote an alternate frame (to reframe). This, says Poole, will only lead to a clash of Unspeaks, rather than fostering any kind of sober dialogue. Poole quotes Ranko Bugarski: “What is needed [is the] judicious use of normal language, allowing for fine-grained selection and discrimination, for urbanity and finesse”. An admirable aim in hysterical times!

Steven Poole’s Upspeak website

John Quiggin review of Unspeak at Crooked Timber

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