All published reviewers of Wordslut are women — at least as far as I can tell.

But men should read it too.

Aside from gender issues, you may be wondering whether this is a technical linguistics book or a popularization. Its primary title suggests the latter. The IPA expression, in phonemes below that title, suggests the former. The subtitle, A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, suggests politics or sociology or philosophy more than linguistics. (Check all this out in the image of the book cover.) The truth is… all of the above. Amanda Montell is a young linguist whose unlikely writing experience includes being published in Marie Claire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Woman’s Day, The Rumpus, Byrdie.com, and WhoWhatWear, according to her website. I say “unlikely” because these are not the usual venues for linguistics! But they do lead you to expect a book that is light and entertaining. Entertaining, yes; it is entertaining. Light, in part; it’s most definitely not a linguistics textbook, and you’ll find it fun to read — nerdy fun, if that’s your thing — but it’s also filled with informative (and almost entirely accurate) information about linguistics from a feminist POV. It’s firmly in the descriptivist camp, so if you’re a prescriptivist and don’t want to be challenged, you may want to skip this book. Also, parts of it are most definitely NSFW, so you may want to skip it if that bothers you; Montell has an uninhibited voice that sounds like several people I know, none of whom are stuffy or concerned with propriety. You are warned.

Linguistics is tightly bound up with culture. In some universities it’s part of the anthropology department. It’s also bound up with psychology, and philosophy, and logic, and computer science, not to mention specific languages — part of the reason why I love this field. Montell’s orientation is primarily connected to sociology and anthropology, but by no means exclusively, and you’ll find a little bit of everything in this book. Along with being funny, it’s also the sort of book that makes you want to pause every page or two and think about what you’ve just read.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, read it. You’ll enjoy it and will learn a lot in the process.



Categories: Books, Linguistics