Book review: Language Myths, Edited by Laurie Bauer & Peter Trudgill

“The media are ruining English”; “Some languages are harder than others”; “Children can’t speak or write properly anymore.” Such pieces of “cultural wisdom” are often expressed in newspapers and on radio and television. Rarely is there a response from experts in the fields of language and language development. In this book Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill have invited nineteen respected linguists from all over the world to address these “language myths”–showing that they vary from the misconceived to the downright wrong. With essays ranging from “Women Talk Too Much” and “In the Appalachians They Speak Like Shakespeare” to “Italian Is Beautiful, German Is Ugly” and “They Speak Really Bad English Down South and in New York City,” Language Myths is a collection that is wide-ranging, entertaining, and authoritative. (Goodreads synopsis)

I have always been fascinated by language, although I wouldn’t go as far as thinking I’m a linguist (albeit maybe an amateur one) or anything. To be perfectly honest, I was immediately disappointed by the time I reached the second out of the twenty one myths in the book. I guess that’s what happens when you read compilation of essays, some would have an interesting way of writing and some just don’t.

That aside, there were multiple moments where I felt tricked by these so-called ‘myths‘, because although some were definitely well known myths that I’m very much much interested in seeing it debunked or answered, it really didn’t turned out that way. Some of the essays did try to debunked or answered the myths but even the attempt was anything if not vague answers. And to be completely honest, again, I didn’t really plan to read essays written by an expert in this topic, linguists nonetheless, and only to be given vague answers. Do you see why I’m so disappointed about it?

Take for example myths #15, TV makes people sound the same. The essay argues that the the said myths to be nothing more than a myth. One of the leading arguments was that TV (or other types of mass media, but mostly TV) does not necessarily create certain words and/or phrases that eventually got so popular that the major population start picking the word up and therefore resulting in people sounding the same; in reality what the TV did was merely making the already existing words and/or phrases much more popular. Honestly, though, that argument did not debunked the myths whatsoever; technically, the fact that TV ‘help‘ popularise a certain word and/or phrase that eventually ‘triggered‘ the majority of the population to speak a certain way, then basically the myth is no longer a myth but actually a fact, because the myth itself did not say anything about whether or not TV creates the word or phrases that made people sound the same, it didn’t even mention anything about the origin but merely the result of what TV does. What I’m trying to say is that, in all technicality, TV does made people sound the same, although maybe it is not a solitary undoing of TV but it does take a contribution to how people sound. Honestly, I’m not debating the essay or the argument or the writer itself, I’m just saying what I had in my mind when I read the essay. It just doesn’t add up. But then again, seeing that this book was published in 1998 (therefore most of the essays surely were either written before or in 1998), the condition was very much different than today’s standard, that’s why the way I see things are in contrast to the writer’s point of view (also probably because I’m not a trained linguist, or an expert, or anything with proper knowledge whatsoever in language).

After the fifth myths or something, reading this book just felt like a chore to me. It’s as if I’m reading a textbook for a class the next day. And do you know what happened when I’m being forced to read textbooks? I skipped most of the contents. So, yeah, that’s basically what I did with this book; I skipped about two (or maybe three if I’m being honest, or probably more) myths due to sole reason that I don’t find the writing style enjoyable or I’m just having a really hard time concentrating amidst the jumble of words that felt like it’s going nowhere.

At the end of the day, I guess I’m not much of a language enthusiast as I though I was. The whole reading experience was constant boredom for me, I can’t seem to think of another feeling except for boredom if I have to look back to the time I was trying so hard to read and/or enjoy this book. I know that I am extremely bored when I read this book, but that’s not to say that this is not an interesting book. Trust me, the book is definitely interesting, especially when you read through some of the long held myths about languages being discussed in this book, but maybe this book was not meant for the amateur person that I am. Unless you are a true and genuine language enthusiast, you might be on the same boat as me when it comes to this book.


Rating: ⭐️/5

Title: Language Myths

Edited by: Laurie Bauer & Peter Trudgill

Genre: Nonfiction, Humanities

Goodreads link



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