From Publishers Weekly
Journalist and language expert Erard believes we can learn a lot from our mistakes. He argues that the secrets of human speech are present in our own proliferating verbal detritus. Erard plots a comprehensive outline of verbal blunder studies throughout history, from Freud's fascination with the slip to Allen Funt's Candid Camera
. Smoothly summarizing complex linguistic theories, Erard shows how slip studies undermine some well-established ideas on language acquisition and speech. Included throughout are hilarious highlight reels of bloopers, boners, Spoonerisms, malapropisms and eggcorns. The author also introduces interesting people along the way, from notebook-toting, slip-collecting professors to the devoted members of Toastmasters, a public speaking club with a self-help focus. According to Erard, the aesthetic of umlessness is a relatively new development in society originating alongside advents in mechanical reproduction, but it may be on its way out already. Take President Bush, who exemplifies that the quirky casual, whether it is intentional or spontaneous, can inspire more trust than the slick and polished. Erard closes by examining our own propensity toward verbal missteps, demonstrating how the interpretation of blunders is inextricable from social expectations. While Erard's conclusion that meaning is socially and historically embedded may not be unfamiliar, his work challenges the reader to think about his or her own speech in an entirely new way. (Aug.)
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Praise for Um
. . .
“Some people are bird watchers and learn a great deal about the birds they watch. Michael Erard watches word botchers and, in the process, enriches our experience of what language is about and what makes us human. After reading Um…,
you'll never hear the thud and blunder of everyday speech in the same way.”
–Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English
“Who'd have thought that a book called Um
could be a page-turner? But Michael Erard's investigtions of "applied blunderology" come to something more than the familiar catalogues of verbal slips and gaffes from the high and the low. It's also a fascinating meditation on why blunders happen, and what they tell us about language and ourselves. At its deepest level, Um
is an exercise in the zen of attention, which tunes us in to the revealing noises and pauses that we spend most of our time tuning out.”
–Geoffrey Nunberg, NPR commentator
“A lascinating fook at yet another revealing instance of human imperfection.”
“Included troughout are hilarious highlight reeks of bloopers, boners, spoonerisms, malapropisms, and 'eggcorns'... His work challenges the reader to think about his or her own speech in an entirely new way."