Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Way We Talk Now

The reason I brought up the "shock'n ya'll" issue is that I'm currently reading The Way We Talk Now by Geoff Nunberg. I've always loved his language-related commentaries on NPR's "Fresh Air," which are always thought-provoking and very funny. It's worth your time to do a search for Nunberg on "Fresh Air"'s archive and listen to some of them or go to his website and scroll down to "Occasional Writing."

The Way is a collection of his essays, and the latest one that struck me was his explanation of country music's obsession with puns. Another good essay explores the phrase "whatever," and my favorite so far has been his story of Phillip Morris' cigarette ad campaign with the slogan "Winston tastes as good as a cigarette should." (For the grammatically illiterate, it should be "like," not "as") People were outraged at the time. Here's a quote:

"In retrospect, it's all pretty ironic. Those cigarette ads do indeed sound a little sinister to us now, and of course they came back to haunt the companies that produced them. But the worst thing critics could find to say about them at the time was not that they were selling cigarettes, but only that they were doing it ungrammatically."

It's funny 'cause it's true.
Categories: misc

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