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WordPlay: How Words Captivate, Illuminate, Intimidate, Inform and Imbue us with Intelligence
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About the Author
GLENN BASSETT is Professor of Management and Operations at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Conn., and a management consultant. Formerly a member of the General Electric corporate staff and a pioneer in human resource computer applications there and elsewhere, he is the author of numerous articles in major media and eight books, including "Management Strategies for Today's Project Shop Economy" (Quorum, 1991).
Top customer reviews
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WORDPLAY reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock production. At first Hitchcock develops the characters. I am not sure where he is going. Then, shortly into the movie, everything falls together and I am sucked in. In WORDPLAY Glenn Bassett develops the fundamentals. Then he introduces one story (example) after another to illustrate his points. I am sucked in, eagerly looking forward to the next story. Each story is so interesting and so well researched.
Congratulations to Glenn Bassett on writing such a sophisticated, informative, and entertaining publication on the power of words.
Prof. William E. Greenspan
WordPlay is the sort of book where exuberance for the subject matter cannot make up for poorly researched and often contentless prose. The author is more concerned with making statements about the human condition and the importance of communication than he is with presenting evidence for his statements, or even connecting them into a well-reasoned argument. And when every other reference is to Wikipedia... well, let's just say that you would be better off reading those same Wikipedia articles and drawing your own conclusions.
The book is interesting only insofar as the insight it gives you into the author's opinions, and many of those are representative of trends in scholarly thought that have been abandoned for years. (The strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, for example.)
Ultimately forgettable, WordPlay is a book that left my library about as quickly as it entered it.
Dr Bassett does an excellent job of explaining not only the importance of words, but how they influence us, motivate us to action or inaction, and myriad other dynamics. Moreover, he explains these topics in a manner that is easily accessible to the reader by presenting his arguments and discussions in a linear, straightforward manner, with good humor, and offers his ideas up with practical examples that make understanding these factors much more easily digestible.
Personally, I feel words are slowly losing their power, given the widespread use of emoticons, truncated phrases, and other lazy writing that we are all guilty of participating in since e-mail first began to flourish. Texting and spell-check, of course, have accellerated this process. It's quite shocking, even though I often think I'm quite jaded at this point, by the erroneous use of words, or mispellings, or simply the failure to use more robust words where lazier language is allowed to suffice. Sadly, I don't think this trend will reverse itself, making a book like this all the more important. Even in writing this review I find I'm rushing perhaps a bit too much in order to progress on to the next task, as we all are in our day-to-day lives.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in linguistics, communications, intelligence, and academia (writ large).
=== The Good Stuff ===
* The book covers some fascinating ground. It deals with topics that I would consider to be linguistics, psychology, biology, behavioral sciences, law enforcement, and probably a dozen others. The subjects discussed are real-world, practical, and well explained, and might be useful in any number of everyday endeavors. For example, one of my favorite topics concerned the word “reasonable”. It is commonly used in American business and criminal law, and yet the word translates poorly, or not at all, into any number of languages. That helped explain many of the contract issues I have had in Asia over the years.
* Other topics were equally fascinating. Dr. Bassett probes at the phenomenon of innocent people confessing to criminal acts, and examines the psychology behind what can trigger it. He also probes the nature of a small child’s relation with the abstraction of language, and how that development affects the child’s development.
* Other topics were equally interesting, if slightly less obvious in application. The Hopi language has no real concept of verb tense, other than a simplified scheme of what has already happened or is happening, what might happen, and a sort of ethereal tense not related to time at all. That was probably very appropriate to the Hopi life, but seems totally unworkable for modern civilization.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* Bassett likes to use lots of works, and write in long paragraphs. The language isn’t complicated or obscure, but his sentences and grammar are more of the academic than the popular writer.
* There is not a lot of organization to the book. It seems to jump from topic to topic, almost at random and with little segue or relation between sections. To be honest, I found the book somewhat fatiguing to read, but the content was interesting enough that I continued.
=== Summary ===
There is a good amount of interesting information in this book, it can just be a little bit exhausting to extract. Most of the “facts” are presented as finished products, so there is not a lot of information on how these theories were developed, or what the conflicting opinions might be. Still, as an overview of some rather interesting and practical information, the book was a success.
=== Disclaimer ===
I was able to read an advance copy through the courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.