REVIEW: Slang – The People’s Poetry by Michael Adams – A review of a book useful for writers

Title: Slang
Subtitle: The People’s Poetry
Author: Michael Adams
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780195314632,
Publish date: 2009
Genre: Nonfiction/ (WritingLanguage)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Academia for the Masses

Equal Mix of Academics, Humor, and Useful Stuff for Writers

When I teach my writing students, I urge them to keep reading, keep writing, keep taking classes. Michael Adams has cobbled together a definitive book that appeals to every side of my book-loving nature. A work of nonfiction, it even appeals to my need for entertainment. It is Slang: The People’s Poetry published by the Oxford Press.

Adams manages to give readers equal doses of fun and information—information that our formal education in languages (English in particular) may have neglected. As an example, he gives us a veritable list of words we use for getting plastered . . . er snockered. Then he shows us how these words may be onomatopoetic or related to the visual or how they reflect a cultural need to set ourselves apart. Those are hardly things Miss Jones would have discussed in our basic grammar class.

But for fun he’ll say things like, “It’s hard to decide whether visual hurl is more vivid than audible barf, as the words offend different senses.” (Yes, you may be amused that your taste for dry humor develops as you read.)

He can buckle down to business, too. He warns us early on that we are to come away from this book with something more than a guffaw: ” . . . it might be wise to distinguish slang even more precisely from jargon, argot, and colloquial use.” And that’s something, gratefully, he does frequently.

What I’m not crazy about is his tendency to fall back on snooze-producing syntax and Latinate words. He doesn’t do it so frequently that casual readers won’t enjoy what he has to say but they’ll have a better chance of not relegating this book to their “maybe later” pile if they skip the introduction.

Writers, on the other hand, will want to buy and keep this book handy for research. It will be invaluable for producing accurate dialogue. In which decade, as an example, would one have been more likely to use gone Borneo for getting blasted? Writers who pick the wrong one may find their credibility trashed by those hip enough to know.Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards.

Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, won three. A UCLA Writers’ Program instructor, she also is the author of another book essential for writers, USA Book News’ Best Professional Book of 2004, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t.

The second in the HowToDoItFrugally series, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success covers writing successful query letters and includes helpful hints from twenty of the nation’s top agents. It can be purchased at Amazon. Learn more at her new site The “Inside Story” by Sassy Brit and her Gang!
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Author: Sassy Brit, Author Assistant

Founder and Owner of author personal and virtual assistant. Editor and reviewer for #altread since 2005.

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