tv John Mc Whorter Nine Nasty Words CSPAN August 19, 2021 3:05pm-4:04pm EDT
versions rated building is one that i have, and students dictionary, and a thesaurus. a students dictionary. why so many different versions. >> one of the options for the people, when ien first started this and i was writing grants. i was handing out books that account at the dollar store. a lot of the teachers didn't like it because they didn't have the words they were looking for in itor and sometimes the simple sentences to violent. so we started to look at other options for dictionaries. so i asked mariam webster to create books for this program so and i created my own dictionary as well.
and it was illustrated. [inaudible]. the animal, that's actually my favorite because i believe that we need to do more to protect animals in our world. so i created that book. to help children understand and you learn a lot about numbers in that particular book. if that was created by some students who were available i think there were only like 14 and 16 and their father wanted them to have a summer job so i had a couple of them. >> so one of the things in this animal book, you have each state listed in the back in the state of indiana innd the population d some of the stats about the state. but then at the bottom, his zoo
locations. and the children's zoo is listed there at the top. can anyone contribute to dictionary project. >> yes. >> how do they do so. >> you can call our office or go online and anyway that you want to. you can participate, we have thousands of people who volunteer their time and give dictionaries to children rated we are so proud to be part of this and they are in their community and they do many things and this is just one thing that they do. we are very grateful for what they are doing. >> can anybody get the dictionary. >> absolutely. we get phone calls every day from prisoners and other people and get letters and i send them
a letter and dictionaries when i read the letter and they ask for a specific type of dictionary are looking for. i've grandmothers who want to give to their grandchildren. we have all kinds of people want to give that dictionary. it more to help them, anyone who wants to dictionary, we will make sure they get one. >> mary france and french is the head of the dictionary project pretty think you for joining us on book tv. >> my pleasure. >> cspan shop .org is cspan's online store and is a collection of cspan products, your purchase will support nonprofit operations and still have time to order the congressional directory with contact information for members of congress and the biden administration pretty good cspan shop .org. >> good evening everyone and welcome. i'm the executive director here
and nearly 200 years this independent is the heart of cultural life in our mission is to enrich the minus and inspire the students to the publishes and these programs as well. and i would j like to think of generous sponsors, reading foundation and cancel the arts and iec would also like to acknowledge is a part of our members, is a part making these programs possible predict to learn more about the library if you would like to join us as members, please visit our website. please keep in mind it this event concerns the history of profanity andnd is difficult to talk about that without using the words themselves and so just be advised brightest of work and happy to invite john mcwhorter and he teaches at the globe university and contributing yet editor. and he is the author of 20 books, including the power battle, national history of language, self sabotage and black america in her untold
history and the most recent book, "nine nasty words" now that and forever comes out next week on the fourth, and will be available at brown folks or another in a minute bookstores. ladies and gentlemen, please mcwhorter.n >> thank you for being here folks, when and i'll pick up too much of your time. in talking about profanity and what it is and more to the point, why certain words have become profanity and what happens to them inn a process predict. john: so "nine nasty words" which of them book that i wrote, it is about the various words that we think of as profanity and others that we don't necessarily think of as profanity but are. and the questionat is, they're just words. then why is it that they seem to different, nor do something like cat or yesterday or already. but then there are these other words we all know what most of
them are buried and they seem to be something other than just labels for thanks and that is because they are not, they become eruptions. they become battering rams, they become little stones. they are even generated from a different part of the brain and ordinary language and so neutral, vanilla language for most people is generated kind of around the ears and it under the years on the left side of the brain. when they arrived they come out of the right side and the left side is associated with analytical in the apollonian as you might say in the right side is associated with the creative more with the attic. in that is where curses come from so even if these things started as words, they become a piece of profanity by my ratings across on the left side of the range of the rocks entered right becomes of the different entirely becomes a questionhe of
anger or of delight more of a irony or of transgression. that is different from just words. and the truth is, that all human beings wish to have a way of expressing anger or delight or irony transgression and semi that has the question is just going to be, what words, which words, which expressions have a get recruited for the purpose. and how you express yourself in terms of all of those things and in terms of subject matter. it's varied in english andt that is my my book is about partly. there's a kind of a three story. in the three acts, they roughly profanity starts out in about religion and then it is about the body and then, it is about storing groups and sounds a little bit less familiar with profanity but i will easily. but where it all begins as why we call cursinge swearing read
the of swearing is being a matter of something to expressing one's beliefs and why is it that another usage of swear is this what that has to do with cursing and that is because the whole issue of profanity used to be whether you were swearing to god or to jesus seriously or not and the idea was okay that was okay to swear to god if you really wanted something to happen and if you deeply affected by something in the emotional weight. what was wrong was swearing to god or to jesus about something trivial like you being a rainy day or you not like any your breakfast. he did not want to swear in vain. that's what this means. so the way that you curse so to speak, was induced to a hard in that you swore in maine. so we are talking about very early societies work life is oral essentially writing is something that is done by a
small elite of people and most people don't think off language is something on the page so if you are in a testing to something, you're going to say that you are good for something, you're not going to sign because you cannot write and nobody can anread. so you have to do these things orally and you have to swear so swearing had a meeting in society like this that to us we associated with now putting a signature on a pdf or something like that. so you do not take swearing lightly because it's the only way for people to be sure of one another. and so that is why probably fully think of the grand old four letter words, two of them are samet because that is about religion and heck and whether you swear for real or swear like with use those words that you really need toou her whether you use them lightly so that's where the idea is that damning something to hack is a big deal and it noticed that for most of
us now, general opinions about profanity and how we use it varies with the person the culture in the area etc. but we don't thank you so and help back as being especially bad words. and i canan certainly say that a 55 and i don't think of them as profanity at all. and there perhaps a bit colorful and i know that my parents use them quite fluidly around me to the point that i had to remind myself that i cannot use them and i remember using hell myself because my parents used to so much my mother literally clutchingg my now that was soakd but even us antique it was probably in about 1970 read in these days, dam and hell and swearing to god is not as potent as we used to. and so for example, to say that oh my god, about something is and probably is not the titanic significance. that is something that there was a time when you are not supposed
to come we were told not to overdo it and a time for most of us, is probably past their own my god or even oh him g is very common among people under a certain age in that age is rather advanced one because our profanity is no longer central around religion. and omg and oh my god were popularized especially when they were documented despite young women it and they tend to be the ones who changed the language. that's a whole other talk but omg in oh my god have been in the vanguard of the language is just a change in that way. so there's a major contrast in today when omg is not considered a curse word as most people would not be criticized for taking the lords t name in vain and using and for example, this is something that i happen to be reading outcome i literally saw this morning. this is barnum and this is a little late in the game for the
sacred status of curses like dam and hell it is running about problems that is having any leaves out theav middle lettersf dam somebody is talking about, unfortunately he talking about native americans that uses the terms indians and he doesn't like them iss having problems with them predict just saying for the purposes for the lecture, what he says in this letter and am looking at it right here, not the letter which i do not own but the books that i saw the sin he said that the m indians were lazy though they will draw customers andt he prides dam and what's interesting is not long after that is that he had some problems with a goat. any spelled dam as d--m. but he doesn't like one go because he says, if i may, he shipped so i can do nothing with
him but with dam a man of certain society have to hyphenate it that are needed so very old-school the much more common in and overtax. because a letter from barnum a text. and what happens is the words lose their power and often when they lose their power, they become bits of grammar and what, i mean, by that, for example with hell. so hell, and even play this that i want to be in this production so much that i would even play the maid. here's another sentence. hell i would try made a notice they mean the same bank. i play the maid. i want so desperately to be the production that i would play somethingha as lonely as a maid. so i would even play the maid. hell, in would the maid apprentice and there also the things, believe it or not, i would play the maid and they insane think and hell in a sentence like that has the same function is that little strange usage of even.
this is sort of thing that happens when a word is no longer really right brain direction, just become something else read any of you out there are thinking about that line from the musical follies. you were correct and the point is that it shows what can happen to hell and the musical it them or does heck predict this was 50 years ago and someone would have just written hell but in any case, but is the first act of profanity where it is about religion. time passes and we move to for example, roughly the 14 hundreds and a lot of it is a reformation and what it did to people senses of themselves so once is more of a sense of privacy, and once there is more of a sense of a personal relationship with god and therefore the emphasis on the notion of independence and individuality in the notion of the flesh as something that is
less appealing than the soul. it and not to mention the architecture whether it is more in smaller rooms and people spend more time to buy themselves and those things start happening, and what becomes taboo to say things about the body and especially things about sexual and excretion and before that, it was certainly considered naughty to talk c about things like that and there's no human society where people don't have aum lite bit about the hangup for pcs and there's no such thing as human society where people have sex relations in the open. and because english society wase human amazed that this was 1400 time frame, words were considered it kind of branding but that was r kind of it and ty were used in public and so for example, there are records of men who actually had veins involving the afford andnd so there was a person who was named henry and the wet afford.
this is not simply, this is somebody just on the record and that is hisua name. and he wase a man of a certain stature, was named roger with this word that we have those names are probably considered colorful and probably like the cast but they were actually serious in the first time that we see in english, the word f word on the paper so to speak, to get spicy because it depends on how you feel about scottish and english etc. for the first time in english, it was right in favor. it is a milk and i want you to imagine was on the paper, he puts as oh and then there's kind of a space, and then d and then there's kind of f word and that was his feelings.
and so oh, d, f word habitant is a very interesting habit, it is not old, it is not a space to where maybe somebody left something about her there for coffee ass a monk would've had one of the things that is in between the o and the d and then this stray and then f word. in this is a time when they f word is funny. it's kind of like in that way, it being a dirty monk argument you can do it as opposed to the deep which he has utilized because that is still truly profane. and this is one of the last moments that you see a word like that usedn it in that way and after a while, you have something very familiar to us which is the four letter word that we really care about as
opposed to dam and hell these and the winds were in the context of not going to say them anymore than i have to, not that i don't use them in my life but still, these are the words that refer to things that we consider impolite. in the book i talk about various cases of this kindal in all sors of things that you might never suspect into so for example, the work pocket can refer to a male and female body part in the english of many people in that continues today particularly inn the south and it you hear it in some old song. and i have to explain this carefully. think about the money and think out got out of it is spelled perrigo think about the word honey and how it's spelled. and think about how the word rabbit and if you've ever learned other languages you don'tno have to learn another wd sounds like rabbit. there's no doc rabbit, rabbit is a very peculiar word and less
you happen to be learning a particular nonsense entered dialect and you're not going to learn that. it rabbit, why that pretty well the truth is, that a rabbit used to be called seo anyway, and now we see that word and we think it's pronounced kony but think about the word honey and ink about the word money and i think about how it really was pronounced after a while. it will that sounded like something. and nobody will ever quite know where that very unfortunate word, that four letter word begins with the comesd from freighted with the pet name for it was coney which was pronounced running with honey and money and after a while, became awkward to refer to that jumping around in your garbage so the reason we call it a rabbit is because they used to be the word for the young one. now it's just a word, or
something. but that then can be used to be that there were little rabbits and we call them rabbits because nobody wanted to talkab about tt hopping around in the garbage in the garden. so there's also ulcers things might never think about in those words, these words as they weaken, they become grammar as well. to begin, the most fascinating thing, and if you had to explain to somebody is very new to english needed to learnwh quick, and needed to speak parochial, what if i may ask means, only means a lot more than just the butt reference so for example let's say that you have a houseguest any don't know this person very well and they get up before you and in the kitchen and they are looking out the window and they're yawning and you walk into the kitchen and they look at the window they take a look there is a gray - squirrel, you know from the words they use, that they mean
that they would not have expected the school toot be gra. now if you think about somebody saying it is a big , that's one vulgar into it means that the plot is very big. not really, it's actually more interesting and more fun than that and the differences they will say look it's a gray - squirrel, they don't mean is very great, would that even me. this a very great, doesn't mean that they certainly are not referring to the squirrels rear end and you would know immediately if they k said that that wherever this prison comes from, they must be black or pink or something brady wouldk, know that because you're a speaker of modern colloquial english. whereasll - has become in the marker the counter expectations so when you say, why would i want to w go out with him with s broke - self them is grown man and he should be able to keep his pockets full of certain amount of money but instead, he is broken - and it is a mean he's very d broke, if anything, and broke - person might have
some money an* it means that he counter expectation only broke and of all things this word it didn't first meeting and now, it is a little piece of grammar that means that something is not the way that you would expect it to be so profanity is much more interesting than the people who justpe yell at. wind like when they step in tow it starts out as something is usually rather neutral are pretty neutral after a while, they develophi these meanings tt have so little to do with where they started, and language changes like that and profanity tends to illustrate that because we use the words a lot and the meanings are colorful so there are a lot of great stories with profanity and where we are finally, the story goes, is what today's profanity is in is that will be called profanity and for most of us in terms of how we spontaneously have done with these things, is stops with sorts of things. but really, if we think of profanity as being things that
we dread, that we don't want our children to say, that we hope they will never say and that we level extreme sanction against people for uttering, no longer dam or - now with the against groups. and that's a profanity we think of stores and something different from profanity and we don't think ofan sources occurs rated but the truth is is therefore anthropologists, they just washed up going about her business they would immediately think that taboo works for these people are slurs against groups and that is what they consider toti be a particularly egregious thing. as opposed to the body or o figures are religion and if you think of stores as having now become in modern societies such as america, profanity and it explains for example why the n word, it is at the point where were not even to refer to it so
not only do you not say it but you don't even supposed to use in and referenced. and some people itat can seem extreme less so you just understand that word has now become profanity and therefore, there is no idea that you do not measure it, where ever you are using a fork, is kind of like in the oldenou days, when you've talked about in the bathroom is a restroom we still do sometimes. are you exactly resting in there, that the youth's in his own because you are not supposed to talk about what you were doing and water closet even for some americans. what is the water for prayed to say not going to talk about anything that you are doing in their, not even show a toilet. juan the same way the n word is being treated as profane in the same way as religious figures in the body were treated and this is something that has really
crystallized especially over the past 30 years in this country, we've seen that profanity is moved from being about the four letter words in the body for the most parttt to being about floos against groups and it really in and swayingrs intellectual and moral development is so for example, there are two ways that the specific letter word this leveled against gay men and one of them is is that it begins, it has become this thing referring to a particular kind of human being, very interesting story. but in the story with it is that it as well is more profanity than just a slur, for example, 30 years ago, any murphy did a comedy routine and it was called raw and he made various references to the gay word and everybody laughed now would not happen now predict a comedian in his position and distributing work all of the united
states could not do that and that is because the word has taken on even more of a taboo status thann it had at the time. it is just one of these things that we see when the language keeping up with the concept and we still think it could be words slurs and what they really are now, is a new curse word. another example of this is that of course in the book this is hard i a was wanted to leave it out, there is a part about is the word that's another most taboo words in the language probably the inward and outward of the words that you can get in the most trouble for that we have the strongest feelings about free name pressure i've never actually never used that word except to refer to it. and as jolly as i am in the bucket, about throwing all of these words ran and that includes the inwardde and yes i use my color as an excuse to write the word out where it is necessary, but.
[inaudible]. him i write it in the book where i have to, and i lay down the audiobook a couple weeks ago and i found that i just could not read it out as confidently as i wrote it and i thought that i am sitting here and i'm a man and i'm joking around and i am talking about old movies and i cannot say this c-nt word over and over again and i sanded a little bit but i did edit it and the use. [inaudible]. much more than i actually do in the written book because w the nature of the work is that whatever my sense of humor cannot as a man say that word over and over again. as more of a euphemism. it is becausese the word is tabo and profanity. something i would say that in my particular life, i think of dam in hell as just sort of juice and cookies and with the body
words, i use them all of the time probably more than my parents did and not especially profane person, you certainly children. i openly admitted predict is a more sensitive than they think they know the not supposed to use the word but i'm not shielded them from those words in h a sense because one of them nois nine and she's going to be using those words fluently with her friends in about three or four years and the idea will be just don't do it around daddy, no i think to myself, this is based on the 1950s sense of what profanity is that i'm not sure there's much use for it is there used to be. i felt them don't use these words outside of thehe housework when you're not running because other people have different standards but for me the profanity is the swallowers. in either my children said the n word or either of them used the f word or c-nt i would have to get a handkerchief and i would be horrified and i would be happy if they'd never became comfortable with those words and i feel aboutut those words in my
children as well as myself, the way that whatever color i was, 100 years ago would've felt about the f word where matthew perkins the editor he is working with people like hemingway who was quite comfortable with it word when he wasn't writing books, he would write that word on his desk calendar and showed sayingbody instead of it. he was not especially in uptight person, it's just that the word had that much power made that is god is not that we have gotten past the sheer having of those taboos because we do have them just no longer about the body, it is about a centralizing and stereotyping and slandering several groups of people. so this profanity in the premier real nutshell my book actually covers more than nine words. really more like 12 words. it is a very nice kind of a postprandial chapter on the word
mother f word because my favorite word i just hope that the book cannot only give us a time to give us a sense of what profound did he is and why it intends to grab onto certain kinds of words. what happens to them and where we are today on profanity and why that is. so i'm going to stop here and i thank you so the part where i take questions from the audience. and so i'm going to stop here and not going to mute and i'm not going to hide my face. i'm just going to hit stop. >> i was delightful and thank you so much and we have a number of questions. the first question, developing a language and these words that it prevents itself from saying. when we preserve these words are what we do that.>> >> why do we have words that then we don't use, because i think understanding is that they will be used sometimes the idea
is whether or not they will be used too much. we want there to be words that you use when there is an extreme and we seek a drama as of that is why a lot of that is. and as i said, they are not words so is not that we create i word to describe what you put chairs around and is called table and than we save you can't use the word, these are eruptions that we were taught to use with caution. >> is their free christian time or pre- christian time when the words were off limits would. john: i doubt that in the problem leavens that is that we would have half written evidence for example of how denmark was spoken in public in a profanity they had, we can assume based on human society around the world that there were words that you were not supposed to say probably have it either with religion or the deceased family members but almost certainly with religion and that one was
to be very careful that didn't mean they were never said but that there were aspects of language that you had to be careful about. you can get a sense of it a free sample of all that we know about the vikings were much more psychologically sophisticated people than i can seem to follow you know is the anger and the horrible. these were people among whom the women sacred words and only certain people were supposed using children rest of us to you can only know so much before their sample written evidence and eveny before than the very act of writing often presupposes that you're not going to use this word is a very example, the f word is all evidence suggests that word existed in old english and is nowhere because when you were writing back then, you were basically you had a big stylus and you were writing in your blood and it was probably not religion or record-keeping award or something. you are not going to write f word and thus the nature of it. >> and he mentioned and i'll
just use the word, you've been using it. that mother f word is your favorite word is remarkable to me that and i admit it, it's versatile. and you can use them in so many different ways but why is that when your favorite and can you talk more about it and the versatility of it. john: why is that when my favorite, i think part of that reason that one is my favorite is because again is a linguistics lesson in that wide mother and of course it starts with this idea of improper relations but it loses that very very quickly and really what it is the curses lose their power over time. and so you can call somebody a f word but it almost seemed incomplete like you to the french person, no we don't say f word, we save mother f word because the discerning had avoided the way that wide bowl - or horse - when she just say the
word, because it started getting weaker. so there's that part of it and then also the fact that in some kinds of english, mother f word just met fellow which i find absolutely fascinating how you get words for fellow that have a certain affection combined with a certain kind of a friendly dismissal in all languages have the sort of thing especially with men read and mother f word has taken that on and also is relatively new and doesn't really pop up officially until e late 18 hundreds and i think with this siamese twins, jagged and - very racist man started chasing them with a gun and what they said in their court's testimony is that the man said unpleasant and things having to do with them and their mother. now you can't know what the person was saying was that, maybe but maybe they just said, you guys sleep with your mother. we can't wake him up and asked,
the only thing that pops up in the 1890s and then we raced story with mother f word at first it was just a word and then especially in the 1960s, takes on this black flavor and becomes almost an expression in the black community. there's a whole book about mother f word and i say with great respect in the person who running, gets a little raw because every single use of it and it really is fascinating how much there is to say about it. >> so we have a number questions about how some cultures particularly australia, when i used to the acceptability of the c-nt word. >> i don't know if i have an pleasing answer to that question because there is an aspect of language change that involves chance and so in this country
c-nt has taken on a particular sacred flavor whereas clearly not is from another places where the word in the sub meeting buddies, it's weird for an american together and listen especially sometimes even woman using the word and you realize that they don't have the feeling about it that we do. and i do know that for some reason, here we have that on c-nt and also if i may, where for example, you can look at the british is a calm, are you being served. this was in the 70s and kind of slightly pretentious when i going to college, they're in a department store and she sells underwear and a middle-aged woman who kinda thinks a lot of yourself and every now and then she will say something along the lines of getting up this early, it's hard on my -- in the audience goes crazy. and then they she was also
talking about her cat but at the same time, mary tyler moore could never have even jokingly said anything about this. there's something about written and there's a song they are and they're going to say the word one more time, it's called my girls - and it is about a cat but is clear with her pushing. and i'm not sure why america's appetite about that particular term and somebody out of research that. >> anything particular american a pearson about the use of words of body parts or functions. john: yes, particularly the culture in this country in the early 18 hundreds, they got really really self-conscious but i have a hard time seeing i would not have also been the case with the equivalency of the people over on the other side of the pond there is something about what happens here. a restroom is here, dark meat,
white meat, why is it called that, so that dark really. that's because it was considered improper to refer to legs thighs breast and limbs and that happens and suppose there was a lady happened and trent around. maybe because of an insecurity in relations to europe so maybe people on the other side of the pond could let their hair down more. that's something that needs to be studied more cancers and uptight about all of the vulgar entered vulgarities that were associated with. >> the library of>> commissions, they actually visited the library in 1943 you mentioned their last name was impacted by the work you talk about that. john:te yes his name. kathy was actually his father at that part of the story for the just discreetly changed it his
name because the dance and wanted to sound like the ring named after a their alterations i'm not sure, no names with al cock so you don't call them that because of it so yes cock but after a while, he wanted to get away from that and a rooster was a rooster cock now started to seem odd a written versus us, mf us probably know in her mind that it can also be like on the barrel but we don't say it, we say for good for example. well you can tell that is a w french word, that is a euphemism, where fossett buried this not an english word. that's the sort of thing that happened. >> many people would argue that the language is a different way
of seeing the world. how would you respond that. john: i would say that they don't. as ann issue that i cover in my book, the language hoax and of course there are different cultures in the world so you will see the world differently and the idea that your language channels your thoughts, you have to be very careful with her becausee language it does channl your thoughts the small and in some expenses for example aggression, you put yourself in the head of a russian speaking way, they don't have a word for color of a a navy blue coat or something like that. there is no word flute, those two words are complete different in some for them, their different colors so you can show the russians are little bit more sensitive to the differences between blues and english speakers must be because of the language but how will not be exerted by culture.
but it is a tiny little psychological effect in the think he has, for every experiment that you can do like that others would be t another experiment he'd that you can do that will show somebody was become language is less sensitive the neo- and some weight where he would not want to say to them so that you'll have to do the same kind of experiment the chinese people little less noble at wrapping their heads around counter actuals and hypotheticals in english because because they don't have as many little words to handle it is we do. if you see my sister, he would've known that she was pregnant pretty can't really gracefully say it that way in manson. you can find an experiment that they don't capture the hypotheticals. were talking about milliseconds of difference but nobody wants to hear that and i completely understandably thinks the chinese are which that implies but we can't say that the russians are seeing blue through different and trip than the rest of us, these are very small effects. they are entrusting it.
want to studied them from their right but a worry about people could make of them if we went as far as like many newspaper accounts make it sound. >> when you got into the head talk, you talk about texting, are they corrupting the minds of the young with the internet and texting. john: lol is the language that your teacher didn't tell you about. part of the reason your teacher didn't tell you is called something is unclearly but what it means is there aspect of language it conveys your attitudele or something in subte ways. a sword where you have a hard time saying what they mean. for example, even had a horse, what is the word even made and we talk about hell, i would even play the mate, what is that even mean. it's a little attitude in their if you have to explain, that you say well he had a horse, what what is well and what is a mean and you it means with the fact that you're having such a hard
time is because it's an attitude work, lol, it makes everything easy. you can mean a kind of a person doing casual conversation does not take it all. his people have shown in casual conversation we do a lot of meaningless laughing and that is how we keep each other at ease and lol does that and texting and therefore it makes texting more human andot more complicatd it. you have to know how to use lol. so what is going on with texting is that texting is speech, a way of talking casually except you're doing it through the mechanical act of writing. so lol and of the little traditions that have emerged, and doing the texting are making it not only warmer but more complicated and more nuanced, the way that speech actually is read the fascinating developments that look like just garbage because they smell like bubblegum but yes lol is very
sophisticated. >> might daughter since me texan there almost like a string of pictures. like high low graphics i'm trying to decipher what she's talking about is language in trying to communicate. and speaking of young women commutes and they tend to be behaviors of change for life can you talk more about that. john: that's interesting because if you look at language it going from one thing to another, you find that a great deal of the time, the first people doing it are young women in the man follow along. invite for example, a lot of us have like not me because being a weird linguist, like it's complicated but many people think of it is some kind of stuck her in really is anything, which i recommend. but that usage of light, it's a familiar today that started with hwomen in and now everybody does it, you read about like this
usage and is real and something that starts with women it and it's already now jump to the track and the guys are doing it as well be guys always the same thing with things that we more associate with language change like that change from have two has and from the and you can see elizabeth whereas henry her father didn't. so even back then, it is the women who are leading. why, no one knows the answer to that question i think and nobody asked me but i think the way to answer that questionwe as to actually ask why do men hold back. there is something about men where we are less likely to do new things with the language we just keep it the way it is where thus expressive and we hold onto our emotions more or is women at language do what it normally would read that is the one way of looking at it. it's consistent and it is found
in societies are the world, and is found longer before the late 20th century and it is women who take language where it's going in the main say oh yeah, alright and that we do it. matt: so how did you get so interested in the study of language and how did it start. john: one, i am crazy and there's something wrong with me and that i can answer the things like if you are colorblind, you don't know it so people start telling you that you don't understand. [laughter] i didn't know until i was about 40 really that everybody doesn't hear someone speaking another language have this rabidid desie to know about a hundred words that were left at it is fascinating that other people can do it. and i have that it for years old and i her little girl speaking hebrew and it blew my mind. i headed i didn't even know what it was but i just knew that all of a sudden i couldn't understand it was surely was saying and asked my mother, what are they doing.
my mother asked them what they were speaking to my mother came back and sent their speaking hebrew. and i said what isng in hebrew d he says people take different languages and i just could not have this language and i can't have some of it as well and i know i now realize that that's the way were often called polygraphs and i'm not one of the really hard-core once but there's something about other languages just leaves me agog and investigated in their rate of people or that way, they're not always people would be happy being academic and linguist. and that is not about teaching yourself language but i happen to be straddling the two ways of being and itad is just that you listen to the way people talk at least the weight i do and i always find it fascinating complex and nuanced, even carrillo kills pete. in for example, i guess partly becauser of being black and nevr heard of black english and never heard black english is wrong party they had to learn the people thought it was bad
grammar. it never really spoken myself, and a group lofgren it much more unthan people would think i just got the well there's another way. this other english was interesting to me. and why people would say this thing and that paying and didn't have the equipment to figure out why i was interested. for example in blocking the what in english from the something that is called narrative had and what it means is that verbs are made into what most of us would think of as winds of the contents of any selling soaring the idea is not that i had gone to the store and so i didn't have much money. the story will be, i going to the store and then i had walked down the street and then i met my friend and then we put our money together and then we could watch the sun go down. and you just waiting for them to say and then, but it is all, is thee narrative marker. this been written about by a linguist who know me, i would never talk about that but i
remember first hearing a cousin of mine doing narratives and he was had, had, had, had they never finish it just ends with the word hadhe i remember hearig him saying that in thinking, this was aha memory exactly whee we were as a summer of 1975 and i remember thinking it, it is not that he is doing something wrong. it is not that he is not in a get, his studies using it differently than i do read it and i remember thinking that i wonder why that his prayed and i think a lot of people would've listened and thought that he does not talk about it remember the time thinking that he is doing something different and that must be that you didn't call it a thing and never thinking that he is doing a different thing. that is a linguist i did not know at the time that's what it was i just never stop and to be honest, unless interested in english than amazing from a public base, and so do english but for me is more interesting because his former like hebrew or chinese or something like
that, english is great but to me english is old news. i wanted to be something other than what i do. so yes, a weird frame of mind and there are o support groups r people like us. matt: will how many languages do you speak. it. john: one, i'm a father and i used to be able to get around in french and beyond. i think i still can but never had the opportunities and my spanish was better than that but it's eroded considerably in my german was close but i lost it because i never been any time in germany and what ini do have though is i'm really sick, i can read easily and a ridiculous number of languages and that it doesn't leave me, i can always do that even if i have not so i can speak badly about somebody in terms of not getting smacked in the face and being able to get around that it not knowing that if i were hungry, getting myself played i would leave it
at french, spanish, and german and at this point, crush on it and you know what, i've been working on mandarin for the past five or six years and it's gotten to the point that if i were in the village, i would not starve. my tiny has gotten good enough that i'm at like years old but other than that i can read bunch of languages. i just stick with that. especially lately i never leave my house. matt: and you talk about your work in english. can you talk aboutut your podcat getting a members who may not be familiar with it, it is swonderful read. john: lexicon valley, is basically language nerd linguist that is kind of seeking out radicchio for 40 minutes and used to be more conventional podcast, wonderful one where two smart guys, one bob garfield who is now media. and they would talk to each
other about the language issues of the day. and then they cast to show it to me and i just made it into my illness and so, we do all sorts of topics, color terms around the world,d numbers, i did want about bad translation of warranties a couple of years couple weeks ago. the last one was about "nine nasty words" and what we just talked about. and i am about to start planning the 120th one that i have done. and i had said that i was going to lead the show in june and i will let it out for the first time here in public that is not true and that there are new plans for lexicon valley but it is my joy. anybody who wanted to know what i was really like as opposed to certain other versions, holidays is me doing me and making it sound like there's no structure, is a set topic and we talk about things. then for no reason, trillion obscure musical theater
clippings and our beat that i liked from when i was a kid, and it started out that i would have those things illustrating what i was saying but it said the point now were all just say, now is just listen to something from gentlemen's and for some reason nobody has criticized me for doing it reads when into being this languages show the showtunes for some reason believe it or not ever recommended because of a great time doing it. so that is what like to hunt valley is brightest. >> to date have you ever tried to create your own language. john: no, i never did that in a no other language nerds who did it was very much the thing. i wasn't too interested in everyone. i had a friend, schiller can, making of the worsening soy see that you make up your own language he was making up a lot of words like you start out with the mother dog in red and yellow and then then already, but will
that word be nice and i don't want to do that. i want the ruling which of no i don't have the story and never even thought until now, i did not ever do that. no i did it. matt: is there difference between spoken and written speech. can you talk about how using language orally in writing are different. suet writing is very artificial. writing slows things down and allows you to write longer sentences and nobody can process easily and a casual speech. writing allows you to get more information in than just speaking and being heard by some of the else. writing grants and only way i'm using language and it also makes the language change more slowly but once you put the writing down a piece of paper, you can't help thinking that that is the language that am doing now with some approximation so as you
haveig writings but widespread literacy the language does not change as quickly as he used to so for example talk about language change. i would say today, is a little underground things that you would not have thought of like the vocal brought and things like that as opposed to the differences between half and has the difference between now and you and it used to change all of the time. but this because literacy was not widespread at the time but those things happen so that sort of dramatic change now is much more rare and much lower rated so writing whole language, and also allows for how complex ways of putting things depending on what you call complexity. because casual speech comes eight - ten words, that's the way had has always been no matter what your level of education is writing of course can create tapeworm sentences so you end up in a whole new world. i think rates are on we can't
help it from there on something in writing is not the way that language was until about ten minutes ago and now here we are. matt: bit of time for just a couple of more questions, did you have everything that you had to leave out of the book read. john: i didn't leave anything out, i got it all in and it really did consider that if i made with content, but so uncomfortable writing about those that i felt, why not just do one of those words but then some of my women printed you've got to get them both in. no, i didn't leave anything out and if anything, get the feeling that i was supposed to add a chapter about cursing and other countries but you know what, i didn't care. i just didn't really care how they curse in spain so just let that out and that is the book. matt: our last question, we always ask of all of our
speakers, what are you reading. john: will the bottom quote is in, it's one of these books that you get it as a present and because it is there he put on your shelf and you don't read it is one of those books kinda like you know, like every other person actually read the power broker. that sort of thing so during the pandemic i decided to read war and peace. i had been pretending to read it and decided to start mumbling through the process and i'm actually going to read the book and i got through the thing in a couple what is in the book this is on the shelf that looks good never read it. it was gotham and void, it is delightful, the print is small and dense and take eight pages a day like the medicine and i thoroughly enjoy them and i don't think we're ever going to see him again but in this only,
1898, there is another volume that i have. and i am also reading for genuine easy pleasure, new biography of eleanor roosevelt and his by david michaelis, and it is excellent. there are all sorts of things going on that attendant mentioned that he really gets into your head. at first, how shouldn't a woman be writing about her, he makes you feel like you are behind her eyes and unlike a lot of eleanor biographies, never the actually a couple of them. i have a thing about her for some reason. it's not really all about fdr. within our way she standing next to him doing things. note, on her so that's when i'm actually reading it when i sit down tired but it also going to get through this 1200 page gotham.
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