Words on the Move

  • by John McWhorter
  • Narrated by John McWhorter
  • 7 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A best-selling linguist takes us on a lively tour of how the English language is evolving before our eyes - and why we should embrace this transformation and not fight it.
Language is always changing - but we tend not to like it. We understand that new words must be created for new things, but the way English is spoken today rubs many of us the wrong way. Whether it's the use of literally to mean "figuratively" rather than "by the letter" or the way young people use LOL and like, or business jargon like what's the ask? - it often seems as if the language is deteriorating before our eyes.
But the truth is different and a lot less scary, as John McWhorter shows in this delightful and eye-opening exploration of how English has always been in motion and continues to evolve today. Drawing examples from everyday life and employing a generous helping of humor, he shows that these shifts are a natural process common to all languages and that we should embrace and appreciate these changes, not condemn them.
Words on the Move opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that silly once meant "blessed"? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn?
McWhorter encourages us to marvel at the dynamism and resilience of the English language, and his book offers a lively journey through which we discover that words are ever on the move, and our lives are all the richer for it.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Literally A Great Listen

John McWhorter has an knack for explaining linguistic concepts engagingly. This time, he's focusing on how language changes over time--words changing meaning and pronunciation.

In a relatively short book, the reader/listener learns quite a bit. I also learned to relax a bit about the "right" way to say things. It still jars me to hear someone say, "I literally died!," but I don't get so irritated (or even aggravated).

The subject matter lends itself perfectly to the audio-book format, and McWhorter's narration is clear and enjoyable. I read some of the book, but it was so good to listen to that I didn't skip ahead after reading--I listened to the same parts that I had just read.
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- sgonk

Funny and insightful. Some material reused.

Entertaining and informative material and great reading as expected, but there's a fair amount of overlap in material with McWhorter's previous books and Lexicon Valley podcast, and it's a bit shallower than his previous books. Wouldn't get it in hard-cover, but the audio format is worth it.
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- Jeremy S. Lavine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-06-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios