UM. Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean by Michael Erard [$24.95]

by Karen Zarker

28 November 2007

 

According to Michael Erard, we screw-up what we say when we speak at a rate of approximately one in every ten words. I don’t know if that’s a source for consolation or worry. Although this book traces verbal fumbles all the way back to ancient Greece, what first came to my mind when I saw this title was, of course, the famed lip-tripper of our day: George W. Bush. Indeed, Bush’s blunders during the 2000 presidential campaign (and the press and the public’s response to them) are what sparked Erard’s interest in the topic.His approach is rather scientific, albeit in an entertaining manner, and you will leave this book armed with a vocabulary to identify each type of common blunder, as well as a better-tuned ear for the gaffes made in everyday conversation that more forgiving types tend to overlook, or overhear, as it were. But, he gently warns, resist the urge to correct those speaking to you, lest you send them into a stuttering rage. The drama student, the psychology major, and the otherwise linguistically inclined will be well-served by the work done here.

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