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How to Talk American: A Guide to Our Native Tongues Paperback – July 7, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395780322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395780329
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,580,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jim "the Mad Monk" Crotty has spent a dozen years on the road traveling around the United States, getting under the skin of the communities in order to discover what makes their wild hearts tick. The fruit of these labors is Monk: The Mobile Magazine, a singularly quirky quarterly publication, coproduced with co-Monk Michael Lane, which spotlights a different community in each issue. How to Talk American is the outgrowth of Monk's hilarious "How to Talk" column, and if you thought you knew how to speak American, well, fegedaboutit (New York), that's monkey (Kentucky). In addition to the lowdown on speaking like an Alaskan, Las Vegan, New Yorker, and Seattleite, Crotty gives up the verbal goods on copspeak, Deadheadian, diner lingo, ecobabble, gutter-punk, Hollywoodese, street slang, and trucker talk. And that's just the beginning. To whet your appetite, these words all mean "cool": crazy, cold-blooded, phat, tight, cuspy, total family kine, fierce, full on, hella, sick, raw, tonar, yar. And these mean "not cool at all": schwag, jurassic, skank. Or at least they did yesterday.

From Library Journal

Crotty has cruised the United States in his "monkmobile" for the past 12 years while coauthoring Monk, an alternative travel magazine. Based on his "how to talk" column, this "guide to our native tongues" is an uneven mix of possibly useful words and gratuitous mockery of regional accents. Some jargon definitions are straightforward, others carry value-laden remarks, and enough errors of basic fact in the text jeopardize the validity of the whole (e.g., a quote by Willie Sutton is attributed to John Dillinger, and Michael Dukakis rather than Walter Mondale is listed as losing to Reagan in 1984). There are no surprising or particularly new terms here, and some are either defined incorrectly (e.g., beltway as "the area inside I-495/95" in Washington, D.C.) or are not unique to an area (e.g., to boot a car is not just a Boston phenomenon). Not recommended.?Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Herndon
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
"How to Talk American" is an irreverent but surprisingly accurate (at least based on my experience) guide to the local slang and terminology of various American cities, regions, and subcultures. Crotty's book delves deep into the lingo of places and people that the reader would not otherwise experience (no matter who that reader is). Perhaps the main value of this book, however, is its demonstration that, despite the rapid homogenization (or McDonaldization) of our society, there is still a rich supply of local terms, or words shared by a limited group of people with shared interests, and that these terms have not (yet) been appropriated by the larger culture. Surprisingly, these terms are for the most part actually interesting and funny, especially when viewed through the eyes of the roving and perceptive author. If this book has a weakness, it lies in the plot and character development. Wait--there is no plot and no character development--it's a guide to slang! OK, if this book has a weakness, it is that at times the author is overambitious and includes some terms better left out and fails to focus on a smaller and perhaps more representative sample. But that fault can be readily forgiven. It's a good, if not a quick, read, and it's absolutely indispensable for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the state of American language.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sara Sebby on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading all sections of this book, but especially the parts about the places I've been. It included phrases from my birthplace of Chicago that I didn't even realize the rest of the country doesn't use. For example, "gapers delay": the traffic jam caused by people slowing or stopping to stare at something, like an accident. My only complaint is that his description was too narrow. In Crotty's definition, a gapers delay is caused one particular billboard which I'm sure is gone by now. But believe me, the gaper's delay is still there somewhere.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
this compilation of phrases, slang, and witicisms really tickled me! Especially enjoyed the midwest section as I was born in Omaha, NB and raised (reared?) in Indiana and Iowa . . .fun!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tanya C. Radic on February 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this book when I had foreign exchange students. It was hard to explain:

1. " thank you for sharing": definition for I've heard enough...

2. "What I hear you saying": Definition: I ( host mom) don't really hear what you are saying. I hear how I think you ought to say it. A device to get the questioner ( exchange student) to speed along so the faciliator (me) can speak some more.

3. And then I bought it too.. cause I didn't know what the definition of a dork is ( a cool person)

Thanks, I needed that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By keikosmom on February 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book that is great for reading while waiting in the car or the doctor's office. I wish it were twice as extensive. I enjoy the placing of words in categories.

When my family moved to Houston, TX from Fort Wayne, IN when I was 8, I noticed I couldn't understand older men at first. Part of this was accent; part of it was words. Cactus, y'all, dust storm, soda (we had pop) were just some of the words I had to learn. They just don't come up often here in Indiana. Some things were very different - no winter coats, no heavy sweaters; however, if you go into a store in Houston now, it looks exactly like one in Boston.
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