Book Review: Wordslut by Amanda Montell

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Publish Date: May 28, 2019

This is a book about the psychedelic universe that exists behind the English language.” — Wordslut

Believe Me 2

Amanda Montell, feminist linguist and staff features editor at online beauty and health magazine Byrdie.com, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women form gaining equality. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women use the word “like” as a filler? Or why certain gender neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or even how linguists have historically discussed women’s speech patterns? Wordslut is no stuffy academic study; Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound, demonstrated in chapters such as:

  • Slutty Skanks and Nasty Dykes: A Comprehensive List of Gendered Insults
  • Piss Off Bro: Linguists Explain What Locker Room Banter Really Is
  • How to Embarrass the Shit Out of People Who Try to Correct Your Grammar
  • Fuck it: An Ode to Cursing While Female
  • Cyclops, Panty Puppet, Bald Headed Bastard and 100+ Other Things to Call Your Genitalia

Montell effortlessly moves between history and popular culture to explore these questions and more. Wordslut gets to the heart of our language, marvels at its elasticity, and sheds much-needed light into the biases that shadow women in our culture and our consciousness.

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This book is a fascinating insight into how gender, history, cultural norms, and sociology all play a part into the words that we use in written and verbal communication.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. According to Wikipedia, it involves analyzing language form, language meaning, and language in context. Learning the meaning behind certain words gives me a completely different perspective, and the assumptions that I’ve made on these words makes me rethink how I’ll use them going forward.

This book is funny, snarky, and full of facts that will make you think about society norms, grammar, and the use of your words. It explains the origins of many slang words and it’s eye opening. It reminds me to choose my words carefully.

My favorite quotes:

“In the wrong hands, speech can be used as a weapon. But in the right ones, it can change the world.”

“If you want to insult a woman, call her a prostitute. If you want to insult a man, call him a woman.”

“Today’s sharpest linguists, however, have data suggesting that ‘teenage girl speak’, one of the most loathed and mocked language styles, is actually what standard English is going to sound like in the near future.”

“Cursing is a word nerd’s dream, and yet… so controversial…. after all, there is a big difference between a swear word and an insult.”

The most entertaining things about this book are the chapter names and the footnotes. The footnotes are my favorite part because they are hilarious. I wish the main content had the same level of humor, but it has a more serious tone and themes that are backed up with plenty of research, stories, and evidence.

I’m not a self-proclaimed feminist but I respect the feminist perspective that was given in the book. The book strongly supports diversity, inclusion, and equality and we need more books out there like this!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 3 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss exchange for an honest review.

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