Currently viewing the tag: "Language"

Author: Michael Erard
Rating: ★★★★☆

The book caught my attention when I first saw it in Book. Inc store. Now I finally got time to read it. The topic of the book are stumbles, blunders and so-called filler words, such as ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘you know’ and etc. the words that we deem as inefficient and try to remove from our speaking. In fact, Michael Erard demonstrates that these ‘wastes’ serve certain goal in our language and there are a lot to be studied.

The author starts the book by introducing the origin of spoonerism, a professor named Reverend Spooner, who is famous for his frequent verbal slips, in the beginning of 20th century. Freud is one of early researchers who studied this phenomenon, inevitably, explain it with his omnipotent sub-conscious theory. The LOL example the author gives is Bush’s goof, “an erection … an election in Iraq”, which can be translated to “an erection I lack” by Freud, but is simply a switch of Consonant, reveals the different views of the researchers. Erard goes on to categorize different blunders and shows that they are not random meaningless mistakes, instead, they have patterns and plausible indications.

The rest of book discuss how our society view these blunders, why do we want to erase them? what is “well-spoken”? Or even how to make money from them? I actually that only until recent history have removing blunders and fillers become important in speech. This is because ancient speakers didn’t really have a lot of audience. When what they said is recorded on paper, all defects were removed. With the invention of radio and recoding devices, not only what but also how speakers say it can reach a lot of more people and be reviewed countless times. Purity becomes necessary in the public speech.

Another interesting observation is, although, like ToastMaster tells us, we try to remove every defects in our speech, a perfect speech doesn’t mean it is more effective. A good example is Brack Obama’s speech. He has quite a lot seemingly unnecessary stops. However, Obama is no question a very effective speaker. These pauses become part of his image of thoughtfulness and intelligence. Often time, a fluent speech distance the speaker from the audience. That explains that given that Bush made so many slips in his speeches, he was elected twice because he was considered as someone whom can have a beer with.