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Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist, is a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information. Since 1987, he has done a language feature on NPR's "Fresh Air," and his commentaries have appeared in the New York Time s and many other publications. He is the emeritus chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary and a winner of the Linguistic Society of America's Language and the Public Interest Award. His previous books include Talking Right and Going Nucular. Nunberg lives in San Francisco.
Rough notes (mostly my questions) from the interview
What are the rules for using the words on the air, on the radio?
What is the definition of asshole and assholism?
What about assholism? What's that about?
What made you write this book?
How about the history?
George Patton was first military leader it was applied to.
Brought home by GIs.
Became part of american lexicon in 1969, 1970.
Some of your observations on the word came out of your work on the book, TALKING RIGHT, and your observation of right wing radio.
Can you give an example of how right wingers set up a liberal as an asshole, then attack the person?
You've named some names.
This is more a male phenomenon than female.
When a woman does something that would qualify her to be called an asshole if a man did it, we tend to call her a bitch.
Is there a defense to the attack of right wingers who set some one up as being an asshole?
Is there a repartee to being called an asshole?
Can you talk about your book TALKING RIGHT, how conservatives used language?
Frank Luntz has been effective in framing words that carry conservative valence.
Luntz's words are not as significant as" values, liberty, freedom, government-- talk about public-- not government
What can the left do once words have been taken by the right?
Can you talk about George Bush calling Adam Clymer an asshole?
What's the story about the repeal of reticence-- shifting from victorian inhibitions on the use of the names of body parts, sexuality"
This ties into the vulgarity factor, using asshole instead of words like cad or jerk
"When we call somebody an asshole, we look from the bottom up."
Vulgarity is always connected to class. It's connected to the idea of being part of the proletariat. We're expressing our anger at the figures that we think"
Any other ways that there's bottom-up language?
I said this was an age of assholism"
I think we have more opportunities for behaving this way and responding to people who are behaving this way.
Are there other aspects of language that are emerging that are more bottom up than top down?
"much more informal-- language of blogs, language of NY Times, sentences are shorter. anguage is becoming more simple.
You say "I'm not really interested in assholes, so much as assholism, along with its close relation assholery." What is that about?
This is an extraordinarily interesting, entertaining book. When the reader is done reading it, what will he get out of it?
Most Americans are not into political correctness. Where does that fit in to this discussion?
Do you have a list of the biggest assholes? What about an asshole museum?
"Donald Trump is the quintessential American asshole."
Are there other people who have become famous because they're assholes?
It's a career move to become an asshole in American life? Why's that?
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