In this marvelously original book, three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Leslie Savan offers fascinating insights into why we’re all talking the talk— Duh; Bring it on!; Bling ; Whatever! —and what this reveals about America today. Savan traces the paths that phrases like these travel from obscure slang to pop stardom, selling everything from cars (ads for VWs, Mitsubishis, and Mercurys all pitch them as “no-brainer”s) to wars (finding WMD in Iraq was to be a “slam dunk”). Real people create these catchy phrases, but once media, politics, and businesses broadcast them, they burst out of our mouths as celebrity words, newly glamorous and powerful. Witty, fun, and full of thought-provoking stories about the origins of popular expressions, Slam Dunks and No-Brainers is for everyone who loves the mysteries of language.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Slam Dunks and No-Brainers|
|Release Date: 10-04-2005|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Slam Dunks and No-Brainers
Here’s the Deal
From the tough-guy kick ass to the airless opt, from the high-strung Hel-lo?! to the laidback hey, from the withering whatever to the triumphant Yesss!, an army of brave new words is occupying our social life with coast-to-coast attitude. The catchwords, phrases, inflections, and quickie concepts that Americans seem unable to communicate without have grown into a verbal kudzu, overlaying regional differences with a national (even an international) pop accent that tells us more about how we think than we think.
What makes a word a pop word? First of all, we’re not talking mere clichés. Most pop phrases are indeed clichés—that is, hackneyed or trite. But a pop phrase packs more rhetorical oomph and social punch than a conventional cliché. It’s the difference, say, between It’s as plain as the nose on your face and Duh, between old hat and so five minutes ago. Pop is the elite corps of clichés.
Nor is the pop vocabulary simply a collection of slang. Some pop phrases, like bling bling or fashionista, may technically be slang, or “nonstandard” and probably transient English. But most pop speech today is made up of perfectly ordinary and permanent words, like don’t go there and hello. It’s how our tongues twist them that changes everything.
Here’s my definition: Pop language is, most obviously, verbal expression that is widely popular and is part of popular culture. Beyond that, it’s language that pops out of its surround; conveys more attitude than literal meaning; pulses with a sense of an invisible chorus speaking it, too; a