Of linguist Geoffrey Nunberg’s excellent treatise on the rise of a certain repellent behaviour hinted at by its title Ascent of the A-Word. This is, if not a family oriented blog, a prudent blog with no wish to offend the handful of our readers who have stood up to the tidal wave of coarse language that washed over the country following the installation of television cables. We would rather not explain what Mr Nunberg’s dashed word is, so we won’t. What we will tell you is about a crime novel we read a dozen or so years ago. It was set in the Northwest, and the principal was a sheriff recalling the advice of his predecessor which consisted of “Don’t be a jerk.” (Hard to imagine more a broadly useful or satisfactory bit of anti-Polonialism, isn’t it?) Substitute Jerk for A-Hole and you can almost run the review in the New York Times, one of the holdouts against present-day coarseness.
There is much to think, blush, and from time to time laugh about in this very smart book, which includes the funniest Donald (insert into title) Trump joke we have ever heard in our long life.