Word Spy: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture

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Crown/Archetype, Feb 17, 2004 - Reference - 419 pages
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Language wears many hats, but its most important job is to help us name or describe what's in the world. Words define us, our actions, even our existence. And just when you think that you have all the words you need, you discover new ones, hear new uses for old ones or see them mutate right before your eyes—a neologism is born.

Those neologisms are actually one of the best ways of keeping tabs on the way our world and culture are changing. One of the people who's been keeping tabs is Paul McFedries, the president of Logophilia Limited (logophilia is Greek for "the love of words"). His scorecard is Word Spy, a daily newsletter that has been reporting from the neological frontier since 1998 and that has more than 100,000 visitors a month and more than 12 million page views. In Word Spy, McFedries demonstrates how new words both reflect and illuminate not only the subcultures that coin them but also the larger culture in which these groups exist. Neologisms give us insight into the way things are even as they act as linguistic harbingers of what's to come. Each chapter of Word Spy is a cultural snapshot, a slice of the zeitgeist that focuses on a specific idea or sociological phenomenon, with an emphasis on the words and phrases that it has generated. These snapshots cover various aspects of modern life, including relationships, business, technology, war, aging, multiculturalism, and even fast food, all the while introducing us to hybrid words: If your kids can't seem to get away from their computers, they may be addicted to "fritterware" (time-wasting game software). If you're a new mother with a passion for petitioning, you may be a "lactivist" (breast-feeding activist). And if you keep finding yourself staying way later at the office than you ever imagined, you may be suffering from "presenteeism."

Word Spy is an exciting and informative travelogue through the evolving landscape of our language and, consequently, the cultures and subcultures that continually mold and shape not just the language but all of us who speak it.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

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User Review  - justine - LibraryThing

Great gym read, very funny collection of essays on our changing language. A must-read for any fan of neologisms. Read full review

Contents

Title Page Dedication Preface
A Mosaic of New Words
The Accelerated Culture
Faster Food
Modern Angst and Anger
Ad Creep
Slang Goes Mainstream
Living in a Material World
The Political Correctness Wars
Of Melting Pots and Salad Bowls
A Baby Boom Lexicon
Relationships and Marriage
People Who Work at Home
People Who Work at the Office
The Modern Workplace
The Art and Science of Politics

Weapons of Mass Distraction
Tales of Comfort Security and Privacy
Slowing Down
The New Activism
Fightin Words
Appendix
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

PAUL McFEDRIES is the creator of Logophilia Limited and has written more than forty books that have sold over 2.3 million copies worldwide. These books include many titles in the Complete Idiot's Guide series, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Smart Vocabulary.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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