- About the Book
A bestselling linguist takes us on a lively tour of how the English language is evolving before our eyes -- and why we should embrace this transformation and not fight itLanguage is always changing -- but we tend not to like it. We understand that new words must be created for new things, but the way English is spoken today rubs many of us the wrong way. Whether it s the use of "literally" to mean figuratively rather than by the letter, or the way young people use "LOL" and "like," or business jargon like "What s the ask?" -- it often seems as if the language is deteriorating before our eyes. But the truth is different and a lot less scary, as John McWhorter shows in this delightful and eye-opening exploration of how English has always been in motion and continues to evolve today. Drawing examples from everyday life and employing a generous helping of humor, he shows that these shifts are a natural process common to all languages, and that we should embrace and appreciate these changes, not condemn them. "Words on the Move" opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that "silly" once meant blessed ? Or that "ought" was the original past tense of "owe"? Or that the suffix "-ly" in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word "like"? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn? McWhorter encourages us to marvel at the dynamism and resilience of the English language, and his book offers a lively journey through which we discover that words are ever on the move and our lives are all the richer for it."
...a sort of master class in how to prove a point. McWhorter first staggers you with a glittering analogy, and then, once you are off-guard, he bombards you with so many (brilliant) examples that resistance is both useless and out of the question. I have to say, I loved Words on the Move, but it's possible I am suffering from Stockholm syndrome.... McWhorter clearly expects resistance from his readers, as he defiantly sets out to defend such terms as totally and like.... But you have to be impressed by him, really. That train won't ever shake him off, will it? It is totally going nowhere without him.
—New York Times
—New York Times