cover image Bad Language: Are Some Words Better Than Others?

Bad Language: Are Some Words Better Than Others?

Edwin Basttistella, Edwin L. Battistella. Oxford University Press, USA, $29.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-19-517248-5

What constitutes ""bad"" language? Is it slang? Curse words? In this academic volume, Battistella, a professor of English, examines language's relationship to social conditions and constraints and argues for relativism in looking at language. He maintains that hard-nosed, traditional ideas about what is ""good"" and what is ""bad"" are open to debate, and that labeling English as either ""good"" or ""bad"" is simplistic and unnecessary. Battistella suggests ""how we might think more productively about language."" After broadly introducing his topic, Battistella focuses specifically on writing, grammar and so-called ""bad"" words (""Usage is less a matter of permanent fixed traditions than it is a matter of flexible and contextual conventions""), and also includes chapters on American attitudes toward immigrant foreign language speakers and accent use. While much of the complex subject matter could intimidate readers unfamiliar with linguistics or etymology, those interested in learning how language evolves will find this book an informative read.