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  • Wordwatching

  • Field Notes from an Amateur Philologist
  • By: Julian Burnside
  • Narrated by: James Millar
  • Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Summary

A bonzer (p. 288) discussion of the strange but dinkum (p. 289) pedigree (p. 224) of the naughty (p. 202), nice (p. 212), and, sometimes, obscene (p. 217) English language.

We live in a torrent of words — from radio and television, books and newspapers, and now from the internet. But, as Julian Burnside reminds us in this new edition of the bestselling Wordwatching, words are a source both of pleasure and power, and can be deployed for good or for ill.

Some of these essays explore curiosities in odd corners of the language simply to remind us of the extraordinary richness of the English language. Other pieces use small matters of language to illustrate larger processes of cultural borrowing and change. Burnside’s musings remind us that we should not be alarmed at the instability of the language; rather, we should see its wanton borrowings as a source of its strength and vitality. Wordwatching also reminds us of the need to be aware of the misuse of language in the service of sinister purposes — whether political, ideological, social, or personal. An ear well-tuned to the nuances of vocabulary inoculates the hearer against this epidemic of deception.

With nine new essays, dealing with subjects as diverse as deadlines, fancy words, the problems with ‘issue’, odd sounds, oxymorons, and the fallacy of ‘wading in’, this revised and expanded edition of Wordwatching is a fascinating demonstration of the power and the pleasure of the English language.

©2009 Julian Burnside (P)2014 Audible Ltd

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Very informative and easy to listen to.

English is such an amazing language. For me, not a native English speaker, it is still full of traps and surprises even after 15 years of using it. This book helps with spotting some of them and also understanding the reason behind them.
Definitely worth listening.

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Laugh out loud funny!

This was quite a surprise. I don't know what I was expecting but this was so much more. It is hilarious, educational, politically relevant and brilliantly narrated as well.

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  • Paul Homsy
  • 07-06-21

Great Story , Great Words.., I think you are going to love it!

I really enjoyed this book. The style is fun. It has all sorts of interesting histories of words. It is great to have context. I particularly like the way he contrasts groups words. I have just one word for it….OUTSTANDING!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Drewjd2
  • 11-11-21

Etymology with a healthy dose of cringe political nonsense.

When reading non fiction on a subject that can be dry such as science, history and in this case the English language, I like an author who has a sense of humor. This is not the case in this book. The author interjects his political views and moral superiority with constant virtue signaling. Being an American I don’t even know what the hell he is talking about half the time. If you are a leftist you will probably like it. I would have enjoyed it more if the political garbage was left out.

I’ve read plenty of enjoyable books on the subject and this is not one. The subject matter is pretty typical for a book on etymology, but the constant blathering about social justice and politics in Australia and other places gets a annoying fast. If I wanted to hear about that nonsense I would turn on one of the mainstream media’s many propaganda news networks, splattered all across the English speaking world. I get that words meanings have political undertones that can change it, but you don’t do that facet of etymology any justice by explaining it from a partisan point of view. I just want to learn about the meaning of words in a funny entertaining manner, like most books on this subject do.

2 people found this helpful

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  • A. Yoshida
  • 10-09-22

Did you know...

This book is filled with interesting facts on literary history and words. For example, octopus comes from Greek (not Latin) and the Greek plural is octopodes. And tome comes from the Greek for volume, specifically one volume from a larger set. The Greek root tom means to slice or cut. The word tom also appears in cutting procedures: gastrectomy, hysterectomy, lithotomy, and anatomy (learned by cutting up bodies). Sometimes the content gets pedantic with pages on the many definitions and history of one word.

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  • C. and P. Horn
  • 30-08-22

Be aware that the author is an Australian barrister but don’t let that dissuade you

Burnside is insightful, amusing, droll, and occasionally a bit dry, but overall his essays are thought-provoking. His view of the English language and its speakers and admirers is erudite, discerning, even critical at times, but never petty. I’ll be reviewing several chapters, I suspect, for my own benefit.