Today there is a reawakening interest in how language affects our lives. It comes with every threat to our safety and every promise of better times. It is a burning issue among minorities and a running debate between the attackers and defenders of our schools. Our deepest problems all are entangled with it: What shall be the official speech of emerging nations like Zambia and the Philippines, or even in certain areas of established ones like Belgium and Canada? What kind of English should be taught, or should there be no standard at all? How is government to make its regulations understandable? What are the verbal persuasions of television doing to our children? Which way does information flow, what are its biases, when does it inform and when conceal, and who benefits? Are the people who consider themselves experts in these matters as expert as they pretend to be? We feel adrift in a sea of words, and would welcome and a chart and a compass.
Language: The Loaded Weapon offers a glimpse of what the recent study of language is beginning to tell us about these things. It explains in simple terms the essentials of linguistic form and meaning, and applies them to illuminate questions of correctness, truth, class and dialect, manipulation through advertising and propaganda, sexual and other discrimination, official obfuscation and the maintenance of power, and “most pervasive of all“ language as the vital agent with which we build our worlds. Explaining language has been Dwight Bollinger’s life work, and as his invigorating new book amply shows he believes that what is true and important can also be made clear and pleasurable.