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Valerie Fridland — Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English

Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English (book cover)

Shermer and Fridland discuss:

  • Okay, Boomer language
  • immigrant parents, children, and accents
  • ChatGPT
  • gender pronouns
  • gender differences in language use
  • forensic language analysis
  • “See you later” (Amanda Knox)
  • evolution of language
  • top-down vs. bottom-up language change (9/11 vs. the “brights”)
  • why children learn language naturally but must be taught to read and write
  • vowels: a, e, i, o, u, but: beat, bit, bait, bet, bat, but, bot, bought, bout, boy, bike, book, boot
  • the Oxford English Dictionary, Samuel Johnson’s dictionary and common word use
  • the influence of books of common etiquette in the Early Modern Period
  • the influence on language use from literature, films, and television
  • cancel culture and taboo language
  • language and identity politics
  • why print it as f@%k instead of fuck?
  • y’all, contractions, and other language shortcuts
  • Was there a first language?
  • tracking human migrations by language, and vice versa
  • regional differences in language use and accents
  • language customs across social and economic classes
  • Fargo
  • Yada, yada yada,

Valerie Fridland is a professor of linguistics in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. She writes a popular language blog on Psychology Today called “Language in the Wild,” and is also a professor for The Great Courses series.

About the Book

Paranoid about the “ums” and “uhs” that pepper your presentations? Concerned that people notice your vocal fry? Bewildered by “hella” or the meteoric rise of “so”? What if these features of our speech weren’t a sign of cultural and linguistic degeneration, but rather, some of the most dynamic and revolutionary tools at our disposal?

In Like, Literally, Dude, linguist Valerie Fridland shows how we can re-imagine these forms as exciting new linguistic frontiers rather than our culture’s impending demise. With delightful irreverence and expertise built over two decades of research, Fridland weaves together history, psychology, science, and laugh-out-loud anecdotes to explain why we speak the way we do today, and how that impacts what our kids may be saying tomorrow. She teaches us that language is both function and fashion, and that though we often blame the young, the female, and the uneducated for its downfall, we should actually thank them for their linguistic ingenuity.

By exploring the dark corners every English teacher has taught us to avoid, Like, Literally, Dude redeems our most pilloried linguistic quirks, arguing that they are fundamental to our social, professional, and romantic success—perhaps even more so than our clothing or our resumes. It explains how filled pauses benefit both speakers and listeners; how the use of “dude” can help people bond across social divides; why we’re always trying to make our intensifiers ever more intense; as well as many other language tics, habits, and developments.

Language change is natural, built into the language system itself, and we wouldn’t be who we are without it. Like, Literally, Dude celebrates the dynamic, ongoing, and empowering evolution of language, and it will speak to anyone who talks, or listens, inspiring them to communicate dynamically and effectively in their daily lives.

If you enjoy the podcast, please show your support by making a $5 or $10 monthly donation.

This episode was released on April 22, 2023.

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