cover image Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

Amanda Montell. Harper Wave, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-286887-9

Montell dishes up equal parts sparkle and bite in her debut, an exploration of feminist sociolinguistics. Montell sees the English-speaking world as being on the edge of a language revolution in terms of how gender is both talked about and understood. She takes a playful yet insightful approach—for example, explicating how supposedly neutral insults like nasty and bossy are actually gendered, but also noting that their acoustic properties make them fun to say and powerful to reclaim. Identifying young urban women and socially oppressed people as leading linguistic innovators and language pedantry as connected to a fear of social change, she explains the “social utility” of oft-scorned, feminine-coded speech characteristics such as vocal fry, uptalk, the use of the word like, and overlapping talk in conversation. She digs into language patterns arising from patriarchal dominance, including catcalling and mansplaining; affirms that modern linguists are on board with the singular they; and delights in the sound of profane language in her “ode to cursing while female.” Montell projects an infectious glee about linguistics and feminism, foregrounding both their fun and their cultural relevance. Readers seeking a fresh, intellectually stimulating take on feminism will enjoy this one. [em]Agent: Rachel Vogel, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (June) [/em]