“Michael Shapiro is one of the great thinkers in the realm of linguistics and language use, and his integrated understanding of language and speech in its semantic and pragmatic structure, grammatical and historical grounding, and colloquial to literary stylistic variants is perhaps unmatched today. Who might be interested in this book? Certainly linguists, language scholars, literary theorists, novelists, poets, essayists, journalists–but also those who find the dictionary entertaining reading (there are surprisingly many of us), or simply those whose fascination with the inner workings of language knows no bounds. This book is a treasure to be shared.” – Robert S. Hatten, The University of Texas at Austin
“Michael Shapiro provides a critical review of contemporary American English usage in a richly multifarious analytical context. The result is both provocative and illuminating.”- Howard Hibbett, Harvard University
“I was overwhelmed by [the book’s] richness and diversity. Besides its great general value for linguistic theory (and its popularization), it would obviously deserve to constitute an important part also of the orthoepic discussion that should be going on in the US. This is no doubt an extraordinary achievement which reflects a rare mastery of the most various aspects of language and language usage. The outspokenly pedagogical approach, witnessed by the clear English prose and the introductory glossaries, should make the book accessible to a broad American-English public of readers interested in their mother tongue and its fate. It’s an eminent oeuvre which hopefully will receive all the attention it deserves!”- Nils B. Thelin, Universities of Uppsala and Oldenburg
“Michael Shapiro’s work is truly singular in numerous respects, but no one is more characteristic than the manner in which he brings into deepest harmony a theoretical sophistication and the unblinkingly attentive concern with fine-grained detail (detail as salient as subtle). He combines the approach of a tough-minded linguist for whom evidence ––and evidence alone––is decisive and the fluid sensitivity of the poet. This makes these reflections a joy to read. Even in the case of the casual reader, one’s own ear and eye will become more finely attuned to important features of our linguistic practices. These reflections add up to nothing less than a vividly realized portrait of speaking selves in all their complexity.” – Vincent Colapietro, The Pennsylvania State University
“The Speaking Self is full of surprises and discoveries. It is an impressive collection of observations about language use, original interpretations, linguistic wisdom.”– Donka Minkova Stockwell, UCLA
“Michael Shapiro’s new book takes an Internet genre – a corpus of weblog posts – and revitalises the conventional `Introduction to Linguistics’ by means of a microscopic analysis of a multitude of linguistic blemishes that characterise Anglo-Saxon culture today. The Speaking Self should be on every linguist’s bookshelf, should figure in the bibliographies of linguistics courses, and should be mandatory reading for TV presenters, sports commentators and the subeditors of our national newspapers. A very fine achievement.”- Anthony Jappy, University of Perpignan
“Reading this book is like having a conversation with an expert in linguistics. . . . I found each of the entries comparable to a New Yorker cartoon. Each episode is interesting and a lot of them are funny, but the amusement is the beginning of an understanding. Because they describe what we see and hear all around us, they make the ordinary become remarkable. We see how language is at work in us and how we declare ourselves in the most common things we say. – Robert Sokolowski, The Catholic University of America
“I’ve read miscellanies on the lore and usage of language before, but never one that shows all at once such a fine ear, such love for language, and such theoretical depth glimmering in brief dips and deeper dives alike. This is the kind of book that has value far outweighing any disagreement about particulars. If you enjoy and value the lore and study of language, then read The Speaking Self because Michael Shapiro is a master.” – Ben Udell, The Peirce Blog
“The Speaking Self is a book that is at once erudite, provocative, informative, and amusing. I recommend dipping in anywhere to enjoy Michael Shapiro’s wide-ranging examples followed by his insightful commentary. . . . Dr. Shapiro has both an ear and a mind for language, and the result is a highly enjoyable and unusually thoughtful book. – J. Norris Frederick, Queens University of Charlotte
“Jewell of a book. . . . a gift to us all from Michael Shapiro. Like a Medieval Chapbook it can be a kind of companion whose vignettes on language use can be randomly and profitably consulted at any moment. Some may consider these vignettes opinionated. That would be to ignore how deeply anchored each vignette is in Shapiro’s long and rare polyglot experience with language. It could well serve as a night table book, taken up each night to read and reflect upon ––to ponder––both in the twilight mind and in the deeper reaches of associative somnolence. There is nothing else like it that I know of.” – James W. Fernandez, The University of Chicago
“There is a growing dissatisfaction with the term linguistics. In this book Language Lore is a flowering congener of German Sprachlehre ‘grammar’, as it were, and various frames for earlier historical blossomings: Wortstudien, lexilogi, florilegia = anthologies, and so on. Shapiro serves us vignettes with living vine leading to soothing wine, up to tiny festive bubbles. In this context it is pointless to list individual bubbles, because Shapiro’s magnum bulk hits harder and more effectively. He provides a modern Neostructuralist touch informed by the semiotics of C. S. Peirce.
“The erstwhile emanation or quondam quoin of love of words––philology––had been ousted by the sterile linguistics, because the former was allegedly the domain of old fuddy-duddies scratching old dusty brittle paper. Shapiro puts his “synchronic philology” into the living contemporary usage, from phonetics to wider semantics and cultural contexts, based on his own observation and compilation. His extensive indexes and rich glossary lack the term philology, as it and its hermeneutic stays are taken care of through Peirce’s interpretants, and so on. The text goes ad rem, not terminological profligation of flim-flam. Words are tools used for purposes, and hence need teleology and final causation. Shapiro picks up raw, rough rocks and polishes them into gems, arranged into appropriate jewelry.
“A few months ago I read “Words, so gloriously abutting, so dangerously hobbled” and then lost the reference. This book richly exemplifies the statement. And more: the Swedish poet and composer and a sparkling joi-de-vivre exponent, Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795), left us this wisdom: “No pleasure matches the pleasure of words. I know that you can list many pleasures, but it only comes from the fact that you have never experienced the pleasure of words.
“In my younger years I used to sing, in boisterous company, Bellman’s ditty about the Old Man Noah, but I did not know the above. Now Shapiro, a partial namesake of Bellman’s, a scion of a musical family, well versed in poetry, etc., has matched this sentiment from over two centuries ago with solid theory, current relevance, and truth. His book informs and entertains with precision and charm.” – Raimo Anttila, University of California, Los Angeles
“It is a splendid piece, immensely learned, written with clarity and rigor . . . and I have learned a great deal from it. I think of it as a feast for those drawn to dictionaries, cultural history and to the ever fascinating, and for me as yet unsolved, issue of the origin of Language.” – Stephen Werner, University of California, Los Angeles
“It is a fantastic book, immensely interesting and extraordinarily well written, and I am totally amazed at your learning and erudition. I knew, of course, your widely acknowledged eminence in semiotics and Slavic linguistics, but I was not aware that you are an accomplished English specialist as well. It is puzzling to hear that you experienced difficulties in attempting to find a major publisher for the book, and I have been trying to figure out why, but have not come up with a plausible explanation. The publishers that you approached should keep the book at their bedside for a while until they fully discover how delightful and rewarding it is.– Stig Eliasson, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Anyone who loves words will love this book. The proper use of language, the mis-pronunciation of words, why it happens and what it means—all this and more may be found in Professor Shapiro’s engaging, thought-provoking analysis of contemporary English—a page-turner I couldn’t put down, and gladly return to again and again. From analyzing Hillary Clinton’s pronunciation of Beijing to a peculiar phonetic trait both Barack Obama and George W. Bush share, to discussion of particular words and phrases—like bad guys, Freudian slip, odd duck, wily nilly—this work is as thorough as the best of scholarship while being as entertaining as a good novel. In a word, not only is The Speaking Self thoroughly engaging, at the same time it is authoritative, informative, and full of surprises about the language we all take for granted, but clearly don’t understand as well as we should. Thanks to Michael Shapiro, this book goes a long way in making up for what we don’t know, but can now better understand and appreciate thanks to the erudite and often humorous explanations he provides. This book is a must for anyone with an interest in language in general and words in particular. – Joseph W. Dauben, Lehman College and CUNY Graduate Center