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January 08 , 2009

The Years of Talking Dangerously


“There has never been,” Nunberg writes, “an age as wary as ours of the tricks words can play, obscuring distinctions and smoothing over the corrugations of the actual world.... Yet as advertisers and marketers know, our mistrust of words doesn’t inoculate us against them.” These are the years of talking dangerously, and Nunberg is a sure guide to the pitfalls. With illuminating intelligence and devastating humor, Nunberg decodes the changing syntax of Time Magazine, explains why grammar buffs are drawn to sarcasm, and deftly unpacks the telling phrases of our national conversation, from progressive to elite to change-not to mention national conversation itself.

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