You Are What You Speak
Pub date: October 2011
RRP: $24.95
ISBN: 9781863955416
Imprint: Black Inc.
Format: PB
Size: 198 x 128mm
Extent: 336pp

You Are What You Speak

Grammar Grouches, Language Laws and the Power of Words

Why does language move some of us to anxiety or even rage?

For centuries, sticklers have donned the cloak of authority to control how people use words. In this sensational new book, Robert Lane Greene strikes back to defend the fascinating, real-life diversity of this most basic human faculty. Along the way, he corrects Bill Bryson’s “facts” about words, challenges the rhetoric of Lynne Truss’s bestselling Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and explains why speech is a lot like jazz.

Travel with Greene on a rollicking world tour that shows the role language beliefs play in shaping our identities, for good and ill. From the Tower of Babel to Atatürk’s banning of Arabic script, he charts how language “experts” moved from myth-making to rule-making and from building cohesive communities to building modern nations.

This enthralling book reveals that our arguments about language may relate to something else entirely, and illuminates the rewards of being flexible with our words. You Are What You Speak will certainly get people talking.

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Praise for You Are What You Speak:

"This is a masterly survey of language...erudite and witty." – Julian Burnside

“an erudite and provocative argument.” - the Age

Reviews & Interviews:

Listen to an interview with author Robert Lane Greene on ABC Radio National's Lingua Franca.

Robert Lane Greene reveals 10 myths about language.

Read an interview with Robert Lane Greene on Black Inc.'s blog.


Robert Lane Greene

Robert Lane Greene is an international correspondent for the Economist, and a former columnist for the New Republic. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, on Slate, and in other publications. He speaks nine languages and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.