Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and, Like, Whatever

Leslie Savan, Author . Knopf $23.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-375-40247-0

Savan, a former Village Voice columnist and Pulitzer finalist for her analysis of advertising, is a cultural pessimist in the tradition of Paul Fussell and Neil Postman. Her target here is the "verbal kudzu" of "pop" language: catchphrases and buzz words spread by the media that are, she says, replacing thought with preprogrammed verbal responses. The longer she goes on, though, the more her definition of "pop" expands to include any modern locution she doesn't like, until even words like "agenda" come under attack. As Savan guiltily admits, her own prose is laden with such language, and though she tries to use it ironically, she quickly sails over the boundary separating skillful deployment of a well-chosen cliché or two from annoying repetition of hundreds. Her argument is further weakened by its lack of focus. More often than not, her only proof of a phrase's deleterious effect on society is a list of public utterances. Serious cultural issues occasionally emerge, like the spread of black slang to white society. But overall, this rambling, self-conscious diatribe against what Savan views as the media-marketing complex veers more toward grumbling than strong social critique. Agent, Susan Ramer . (Oct. 6)

Reviewed on: 08/15/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-375-70242-6
Ebook - 210 pages - 978-0-307-26432-9
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