August 05, 2007


In today's Boston Globe, Michael Erard pinch-hits for "The Word" columnist Jan Freeman and gives a preview of his new book, Um... Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean. Erard writes:

It's typical to think of verbal blunders as embarrassing slip-ups that we should avoid. But I've just written a whole book about verbal blunders, and I find them fascinating. Why? Because they're signs of the wild. Not in the sense of rough or savage, but because they're pure and untameable. They provide a window into what humans really are: biological organisms who live in complex groups and have really amazing brains. Blunders of the verbal sort may seem like violations of the order of language, but in fact they're spontaneous eruptions of the qualities that gave us this order in the first place.

I'm greatly looking forward to reading Um... (Amazon says it will be released on Aug. 21), especially Chapter 9 ("Fun With Slips"), since according to Erard's site it will focus on a favorite Language Log topic: eggcorns, as illuminated by "blunder maven" Arnold Zwicky.

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at August 5, 2007 10:08 AM