Saturday, May 08, 2004

WordcraftMy latest Tribune language column:
On "Wordcraft," a new book that shows how brand names are birthed.
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My closing line was cut from the final version of the piece: "Of course, this kind of inspection could backfire, as Nunberg observed last year in the New York Times. "As advertisers have known for a long time," he wrote, "no audience is easier to beguile than one that is smugly confident of its own sophistication.""

Here's a 1997 article in Wired by the author on corporate naming. Here's a Stanford lecture and a UPenn lecture on the language of advertising.

While reading Wordcraft's chapter on pharmaceutical names, I was struck anew by how drugged we are as a culture; just in the past years and decades, we have turned en masse to drugs to transform our lives. The essential story on this is here, in the New Yorker, summarized by this blogger. (The story's subtitle: "Dietary supplements are unregulated, some are unsafe—and Americans can’t get enough of them.")

My language column last week was on Chicago's Noble Street Charter High School, a mostly Latino school that requires students to study Russian for their foreign language credits, as a way to level the playing field among students with varying proficiencies in Spanish. I think the link is still working, although it was supposed to expire, but here's the preview, and here's the principal's testimony before the U.S. House on alternative approaches to education.

Finally, I wrote earlier about Lynne Truss, whose book on punctuation has now become a bestseller in the U.S. Since then the London Guardian wrote a piece on Truss and pedantry, and the NY Times just ran an op-ed by the Times' Almanac editor saying Truss and other pedants should lighten up.

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