A bonzer (p. 288) discussion of the strange but dinkum (p. 289) pedigree (p. 224) of the naughty (p. 202), nice (p. 212), and, sometimes, obscene (p. 217) English language.
We live in a torrent of words — from radio and television, books and newspapers, and now from the internet. But, as Julian Burnside reminds us in this new edition of the bestselling Wordwatching, words are a source both of pleasure and power, and can be deployed for good or for ill.
Some of these essays explore curiosities in odd corners of the language simply to remind us of the extraordinary richness of the English language. Other pieces use small matters of language to illustrate larger processes of cultural borrowing and change. Burnside’s musings remind us that we should not be alarmed at the instability of the language; rather, we should see its wanton borrowings as a source of its strength and vitality.
Wordwatching also reminds us of the need to be aware of the misuse of language in the service of sinister purposes — whether political, ideological, social, or personal. An ear well-tuned to the nuances of vocabulary inoculates the hearer against this epidemic of deception.
With nine new essays, dealing with subjects as diverse as deadlines, fancy words, the problems with ‘issue’, odd sounds, oxymorons, and the fallacy of ‘wading in’, this revised and expanded edition of Wordwatching is a fascinating demonstration of the power and the pleasure of the English language.
Burnside’s ‘sense of humour twinkles throughout the book as he solves language mysteries.’
Jenny Napier, AAP
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Julian Burnside ... is a passionate, erudite and witty man. His dissection of the vagaries and bastard history of the English language is worthy of his illustrious predecessors, Johnson and Fowler ... His chapters on ‘naughty words’, ‘haitch’ and ‘terminal prepositions’ reduced this reader to tears of excruciation and delight ... This is a book for any lover of language, and of ideas.’
Kathy Hope, Australian Bookseller & Publisher
‘There are many quirks and curiosities of language to be gleaned from this pleasant book.’
Meg Sorensen, Courier Mail
‘a delightful collection of short essays on quixotically selected lexicographical examples, curiosities and profundities catching the eye of a (not so) ‘amateur philologist’ ... read it as a book of fine essays, laced with a sometimes self-deprecating wit, which use the language with the grace and respect that has inspired [Burnside] to ‘watch words’ in the first place.’
Brian Matthews, Eureka Street
‘an exquisite pleasure’
Warren Hately, Fremantle Herald
‘Wordwatching – field notes from an amateur philologist is an absolute treat from Julian Burnside. The colourful barrister, who is passionately involved with the arts as well as the law, takes us on a quirky tour through the English language. Mid-way through the book he declares philologists range from “intellectual stick-insects to crusty pedants”. Wordwatching seems to disprove his theory, at least as far as JB,QC is concerned!’
'Word Watching is a fascinating book. I enjoyed every page. In fact, I found it "scintilating" - brilliantly and excitingly clever.'
Katy Gerner, Insights
'Like an expensive box of chocolates with exotic fillings, this is a collection of finely crafted confections on words that will be enjoyed by those who love language and its endlessly evolving interplay with meaning.'
Anthony Burke, Law Institute Journal (Vic)
'This fascinating and beguiling collection of essays is about the power and pleasure of words, and the English language.'
Suzy Wilson, South East Advertiser
‘... there are plenty of jokes and witty references ... It’s entertaining and thought-provoking stuff.’
‘A book which is rich in the diversity of language forms is Wordwatching: field notes from an amateur philologist, by Julian Burnside. This is a witty book with attention given to the power of words and how they can be used.’
Christopher Bantick, Sunday Tasmanian
‘The book swirls and invites the reader to dip and dive into its richly entertaining contents ... There is a real love of language here and the book is full of wonderful stories about the magic of words.’
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
‘Barrister, refugee advocate and arts identity Burnside has made a welcome contribution to the genre of handsome little books about words and language ... this is full of amusing and amazing trivia.’
Robin Osborne, The Northern Rivers Echo
‘Erudite and eclectic musings, with a whimsical edge, on the linguistically curious and aptly adaptable.’
The Weekend Australian
‘very witty and amusing, exploring the history of words and their current use and misuse.’
Steve Woodman, Weekender
'Burnside ... employs the skills of a forensic historian with a barrister's sharp tongue ... This is a delightful book you can easily dip in and out of. If you'll excuse the syntax.'
Mark Irving, West Australian