Language is Fascinating (and hip-hop uses it well)

My brother handed this book to me a few months back and suggested that it would be right up my alley since I am a writer, an English major, and fascinated with words and language. He was right!

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is a great read.

For instance, did you know that “virtually every sentence that a person utters or understands is a brand-new combination of words, appearing for the first time in the history of the universe.”

Here’s another thought…

“We have all had the experience of uttering or writing a sentence, then stopping and realizing that it wasn’t exactly what we meant to say. To have that feeling, there has to be a ‘what we meant to say’ that is different from what we said.”

I’ve collected quite a few passages from this book that I will be adding to my commonplace book. Sorry that I haven’t been updating that site much lately. I plan on getting back to it real soon.

I need to add this book to my Recommended Reads list. Pinker does such a great job of explaining how language works and how it change throughout time. He believes that language is a human instinct and by the end of the book, you probably will too.

I also love how he gives credit to rappers for helping evolve language.

“When given a glimpse into one of these lexicons, no true language-lover can fail to be dazzled by the brilliant wordplay and wit: 

from medical students (Zorro-belly, crispy critter, prune) 
rappers (jaw-jacking, dissing)
college students (studmuffin, veg out, blow off)
surfers (gnarlacious, geeklifed)
and hackers (to flame, core-dump, crufty)”

He then further adds, “I don’t know how I ever did without… to dis (express disrespect for)”

A language expert that acknowledges hip-hop and its vast influence. How could I not love this book?



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4 Comments on Language is Fascinating (and hip-hop uses it well)

  1. Hi Chase .. thanks really interesting post .. I'd heard of Stephen Pinker .. so recognised the name – and it will good to learn more as you post about various aspects.

    We think 'new' people .. are dumb blondes, or unintelligent .. just because we know no more – & yet the people that make it to the top are usually pretty astute ..

    So that being said rappers too fall into that category ..

    Great post and it'll be interesting and fun to read more .. thanks – Hilary

  2. Hi Hilary,

    Yeah, the students in my school are coming up with new words and sayings all the time. I wonder which ones will be in the popular vernacular in the next few years.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Looks like a great read! Whether or not one subscribes to the Tower of Babel theory, the diffusion and alteration of language fascinates1

  4. Hi ECD,

    It's good to see you around again!

    It was an interesting read and it even informed my teaching practices and the importance of grammar.

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