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Planet Word by J.P. Davidson
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Planet Word

by J.P. Davidson

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As booksloth has said, a gem. A flawed gem, but a gem nevertheless, and eminently readble. Davidson, perhaps with a lot of Fry or perhaps not, has scampered through linguistic theory and history with sheer delight. At times the TV origins, even BBCTV origins, make the text a little choppy, but this was never meant to be a Linguistics 101 (much less 301) text, and readability never lapses.

There are one or two strange moments, particularly the first mention of Jonathan Swift. It is utterly misleading to note Swift as having 'recommended the Irish sell their children for food' (twice, on 94-5) without emphasisng the acid irony of the Dean's intent. "A Modest Proposal" is bitter parody, not, thank God, serious suggestion; Davidson should have paid Swift the credit of honouring his authorial intention even if authorial intention is a swear word in a pomo world.

Later an astute editorial eye might have notice that P.G. Wodehouse segues in consecutive lines of print into someone called Woodhouse, a nasty oversight. Perhaps the proof-reader at that point was tired - the next page sees a paragraph end with no full stop.

These slight sloppinesses mar an otherwise outstanding meander through the complex labrynths of language. Good fun. ( )
  zappa | Jan 27, 2012 |
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Epigraph
'La parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.'

('Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes to make bears dance when what we really want is to move the stars.')

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857)
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Words are all we have. (Foreword)
Let's start at the beginning, where all good stories should start.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0718157745, Hardcover)

Unravel the mysteries of language with J.P. Davidson's remarkable "Planet Word". "The way you speak is who you are and the tones of your voice and the tricks of your emailing and tweeting and letter-writing, can be recognised unmistakably in the minds of those who know and love you". (Stephen Fry). From feral children to fairy-tale princesses, secrets codes, invented languages - even a language that was eaten! - "Planet Word" uncovers everything you didn't know you needed to know about how language evolves. Learn the tricks to political propaganda, why we can talk but animals can't, discover 3,000-year-old clay tablets that discussed beer and impotence and test yourself at textese - do you know your RMEs from your LOLs? Meet the 105-year-old man who invented modern-day Chinese and all but eradicated illiteracy, and find out why language caused the go-light in Japan to be blue. From the dusty scrolls of the past to the unknown digital future, and with (heart) the first graphic to enter the OED, are we already well on our way to a language without words? In a round-the-world trip of a lifetime, discover all this and more as J. P. Davidson travels across our gloriously, endlessly intriguing multilingual "Planet Word". John Paul Davidson is a film and television director and producer. After studying at Bristol University and completing his doctoral field work in The University of Malysia, he joined the BBC's Travel and Exploration Unit as their resident anthropologist. Stephen Fry's film, stage, radio and television credits are numerous and wide-ranging. He has written, produced, directed, acted in or presented productions as varied as "Wilde", "Blackadder", "Jeeves and Wooster", "A Bit of Fry and Laurie", "Fry's English Delight" and "QI". After writing many successful books, his recent memoir "The Fry Chronicles" was a number one bestseller.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:11 -0400)

What are the ten most offensive swear words in the English language? Why is Cockney Rhyming Slang important in the evolution of language? The answers to all this and more are unravelled by Stephen Fry as he travels across PLANET WORD meeting the tribes, toddlers, prisoners and scholars who have made language what it is today.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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