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Um… is about how people really speak, and why it’s normal for casual, everyday speech to be filled with verbal blunders—about one in every ten words. Why do they happen? Why can’t we control them? What can you tell about the people who make them?
In this engaging account of language in the wild, linguist and writer Michael Erard also explains why our attention to some verbal blunders rises and falls. Why was the spoonerism named after Reverend Spooner, not some other absent-minded person? Where did the Freudian slip come from? Why do we prize “umlessness” in speaking? And how do we explain the American presidents who are famous for their verbal blundering?
Ranging broadly through the nature of verbal blunders, the history of our understanding of them, andt he norms that govern our speech in public and private, Michael Erard deciphers just what our blunders means and offers an explanation of what we might do about them.
A rich investigation of a fascinating subject, full of entertaining examples, Um. . . is essential reading for all talkers and listeners.
“Who’d have thought that a book called ‘Um’ could be a page-turner? But Michael Erard’s investigtions of ‘applied blunderology’ come to something more than the familiar catalogues of verbal slips and gaffes from the high and the low. It’s also a fascinating meditation on why blunders happen, and what they tell us about language and ourselves. At its deepest level, ‘Um’ is an exercise in the zen of attention, which tunes us in to the revealing noises and pauses that we spend most of our time tuning out.” –Geoffrey Nunberg, NPR commentator
“A lascinating fook at yet another revealing instance of human imperfection.” –Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Some people are bird watchers and learn a great deal about the birds they watch. Michael Erard watches word botchers and, in the process, enriches our experience of what language is about and what makes us human. After reading Um…, you'll never hear the thud and blunder of everyday speech in the same way.” —Richard Lederer, author of Anguished English
“Mr. Erard’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. He gets you wondering about blundering.”—The Wall Street Journal
“On his enjoyable tour of linguistic mishaps, Erard takes in everything from robotics to the federal government's transcription service, Aristotle to contemporary public speaking coaches.”—The New York Times Book Review
“By focusing on what many of us overlook (or underhear?), Erard has further revealed the complexity and beauty of language. Perhaps he will make all of us both better listeners and, um, better speakers.”—The Seattle Times
“You can feel when an author is enjoying himself, and Erard’s survey is written with unexpected humor, grace, and high spirits.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“In this well-researched, in-depth study of "speech disruption" analysis, Erard uses his strong sense of the humor inherent in his topic to good effect.”—Library Journal