One of my favorite blogs, Grammar Guard (www.grammarguard.org), ridicules the ungrammatical speech of celebrities, political figures and athletes, to name a few. As a self-proclaimed grammarian, I find myself struggling to keep my mouth shut on a day-to-day basis when a friend blurts out “who” when the sentence merits “whom”, or when singular-plural agreement is thrown out the window (FYI: everybody = singular). One has to be somewhat of a language nerd to fully appreciate this blog, as Grammar Guard claims, “We’re passionate about language, and so are our readers”.
After perusing the blog today, laughing at celebrities who may be more beautiful than me but could stand to take a lesson in English grammar, I began thinking; why do we use the words we do? What do the subtle differences between words that are commonly used, sometimes used or misused reveal about the speaker? Are words a product of who we are or are we a product of our words? If the way a person drives can reveal their personality type, can’t a study of their lexicon expose the inner-workings of their brain as well?
While I am rarely inspired to read non-fiction, I decided to check out Amazon to find a book that can answer my questions. The result: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. While writing a paper on second language acquisition in college I read a few chapters of Pinker’s book The Language Instinct and actually still remember it 3 years later, which in my opinion, says a lot. Anyway, I’m hoping Pinker’s newest book can teach me a thing or two about the relationship between language and the way the mind works. "In The Stuff of Thought Steven Pinker explores how the mind works in a completely new style- by examining the way we use words. What does swearing reveal about the emotional brain? What do the ambiguities of dating say about our social relationships? How do semantic niceties- like the ones that got our last two presidents into trouble- unmask our conceptions of time, truth, and responsibility? And what does the spread of new words (such as the mysterious term spam) tell us about social trends?"
I’ll let everybody know whether or not it’s worth his or her time. (See, singular-plural agreement- it's not that difficult).