10 March 2011

Review: Gift of the Gob by Kate Burridge

Gift of the Gob by Kate Burridge book coverKate Burridge is an Australian Professor of Linguistics and Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English Language History is her third book. This is an educational, insightful, amusing and light read covering several interesting categories, some of which include: Slanguage on the move, Shocking words, Word origins, Pronunciation on the move and many more.

It was fascinating to learn how the meaning of a word can change over time, as well as the pronunciation. The book includes the origin of particular words and phrases and even included the word I hate most at the moment, irregardless.

I enjoyed reading the section on blended words such as cocacolonization and affluenza. I was also introduced to the official/non-official term the pullet surprise (misheard Pulitzer Prize) which many of us would recognise as the outcome when song lyrics are misheard. My favourite section of the book included the long forgotten phrases describing culinary activities such as: frushing a chicken and unlacing a rabbit.

The most disturbing find was that there is an increasing number of Australians using the expression 'Collingwood is versing Essendon' instead of versus. Younger generations when hearing the use of the word versus are mistaking it for verses, and using it accordingly - although incorrectly. I sincerely hope this doesn't take off, although since finishing this book I have heard this pronunciation at least twice, ugh!

Gift of the Gob takes a look at the language of the past and where the English language is taking us in the future, both here and abroad. My only criticism is that the book is screaming out for an Index or Table of Contents at the beginning. I was continually flicking through the book to find this or that and a Table of Contents would have been very handy.

I thoroughly recommend this to anyone with a love of words or interested in the quirky words, phrases, spellings, pronunciations and origins of our English language. This book would be perfect on any coffee table, and is fantastic to dip into from time to time but is not too much to read in one hit. Enjoy.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I hate to tell you this Trace, but my debating team 'versed'Toowoomba Grammar on Wednesday night. I yelled, "it's not a verb! It's Latin", but people just looked at me strangely. I regularly ask my students to show me how to 'of', because they could of, would of should of done something. Most have no idea what I'm ranting about. Sooooo I enlighten them! This is a great book and I love anything that de-mystifies the origins of the language. Glad you liked it too.

  2. Oh no! How can you stand it? I used to just think it was bogan-language but it's more widespread than I thought. I'm beginning to hate words like 'awesome' and the continual use of the word 'like' the way our parents probably hated us using the word 'unreal'.
    I also hate hearing the word normalcy for some reason, and irregardless always gets my pulse racing.
    It's encouraging to hear you're keeping your students on the straight and narrow though :-) There's still hope.

  3. It's also annoying when media reports talk of 'seventy people being evacuated.' You can evacuate a building, but evacuating a person would be impossible without using medical apparatus or a good dose of salts...
    I know the TV show The Wire made this point better than I ever could, but it's worth repeating.

  4. Very true! And while we're talking about the media, their overuse of the words 'inundation' and 'inundated' during the QLD and VIC floods was nauseating. Why couldn't they just say 'flooded' from time to time?

    I guess there are always buzz words and phrases in the media and in society, and some of them will undoubtedly make our skin crawl.

  5. Oh, and I forgot to mention the one I hate the most: saying 'preformance' instead of 'performance'!!!

    Joe Hockey said it in today's Parliament Question Time, argh!


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!