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Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years ebook

by Geoffrey Nunberg


My excitement for Ascent of the A-Word was generated because, after reading so much junk of this topic, I was so impressed with this book. It is so fun, so well-written, and so important because Nunberg gets at many of the root causes of what is wrong with our society and organizations.

My excitement for Ascent of the A-Word was generated because, after reading so much junk of this topic, I was so impressed with this book. 48 people found this helpful.

Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years is a 2012 book by the American linguist Geoffrey Nunberg which analyzes the history of the epithet "asshole". In Ascent, Nunberg traces to World War II the origins of the word as an epithet, when it was used as a term of abuse for superior officers considered abusive or self-important.

But considering how much the word does for us, and to us, it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves––at least . Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist, is a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information.

But considering how much the word does for us, and to us, it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves––at least until no. His previous books include Talking Right and Going Nucular. Nunberg lives in San Francisco.

Ascent of the A-Word book. Whatever the topic, Geoffrey Nunberg is always a pleasure to read. Ascent of the A-Word covers more than just the etymology of asshole- The words that make us laugh aren’t usually ones we give a great deal of thought to. To study asshole is to dip into a pool unrippled by deep contemplation, insulated from the airs and distension that can infect a word like incivility, which provides an accurate reflection of what we genuinely think about how we should behave toward one another.

THE IDEA THAT America harbors an epidemic of assholism, as Geoffrey Nunberg has it, is one that most people would spontaneously accept before feeling an urge to temper it. No doubt people in 1932 or 1872 had a similar feeling that their age was coarser than the last. Nunberg knows that they did, but he proposes that assholism is more rampant in society than ever before. This latter thesis, despite yielding some deft anthropology, is less successful than the first.

Ascent of the A-Word. Assholism, the First Sixty Years

Ascent of the A-Word. Assholism, the First Sixty Years. Geoffrey Nunberg's new book presents a history of the word "asshole" - from its use by World War II servicemen to express frustration at arrogant superiors to its first use in print by Norman Mailer to George W. Bush's use of the word to describe a journalist. Read an excerpt of this book.

Also by Geoffrey Nunberg. The Years of Talking Dangerously. The point of this book, more than anything else, is that the ascent of the A-word and the attention it gets say a great deal about who we’ve become. The visibility of these icons of assholism isn’t necessarily evidence for the collapse of civility and the coarsening of public life, much less for a general deterioration of national character. However dire things may seem, on the whole we’re as nice as we ever were, particularly in the way we treat our friends, family, and colleagues. Asshole is always a disreputable word, whether it’s referring to someone’s anatomy or his character. New York: PublicAffairs. Geoffrey Nunberg is an adjunct full professor at UC Berkeley's School of Information, a linguist, and former chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. Nunberg lives in San Francisco, California.

Ascent of the A-Word would be incomplete if Professor Nunberg left out assholism in political discourse

Ascent of the A-Word would be incomplete if Professor Nunberg left out assholism in political discourse. His best example? Donald Trump. Trump's reputation as an asshole was firmly established before his dalliance with politics began. In his book, Professor Nunberg trounces the political broadcasters as those who truly qualify as personal and professional assholes. He gives an example of this behavior by Ann Coulter when she gave a talk at the University of Ottawa in 2010.

Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years is a 2012 book by the American linguist Geoffrey .

Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years is a 2012 book by the American linguist Geoffrey Nunberg which analyzes the history of the epithet asshole. An epithet is a byname, or a descriptive term, accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage.

It first surfaced in the gripes of GIs during World War II and was captured early on by the typewriter of a young Norman Mailer. Within a generation it had become a basic notion of our everyday moral life, replacing older reproaches like lout and heel with a single inclusive category––a staple of country outlaw songs, Neil Simon plays, and Woody Allen movies. Feminists made it their stock rebuke for male insensitivity, the est movement used it for those who didn’t “get it,” and Dirty Harry applied it evenhandedly to both his officious superiors and the punks he manhandled.

The asshole has become a focus of collective fascination for us, just as the phony was for Holden Caulfield and the cad was for Anthony Trollope. From Donald Trump to Ann Coulter, from Mel Gibson to Anthony Weiner, from the reality TV prima donnas to the internet trolls and flamers, assholism has become the characteristic form of modern incivility, which implicitly expresses our deepest values about class, relationships, authenticity, and fairness. We have conflicting attitudes about the A-word––when a presidential candidate unwittingly uttered it on a live mic in 2000, it confirmed to some that he was a man of the people and to others that he was a boor. But considering how much the word does for us, and to us, it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves––at least until now.

Andromathris
I have read this book twice in the last month, once in an advanced copy sent to me by the publisher and again this week when my Amazon copy arrived. It is so much fun to read and so well researched that I couldn't put it down. As the author of a book that is also on "the A word," publishers send me books like this constantly -- on bullying, jerks, nasty talk, you name it. This is the best of all of them. I wrote a longer review on my blog Work Matters, here an excerpt (note there is a bit of censoring as Amazon doesn't allow the full A-word in reviews.. as many people who have tried to submit reviews for my book have found):

'I admired how deftly he treated "The Politics of Incivility" in the chapter on "The A**holism of Public Life." Nunberg makes a compelling argument that critics on the right and the left both use the tactic of claiming that an opponent is rude, nasty, or indecent -- that they are acting like a**holes and ought to apologize immediately. Nunberg documents "the surge of patently phony indignation for all sides," be it calling out people for "conservative incivility" or "liberal hate." He captures much of this weird and destructive game with the little joke "Mind your manners, a**hole."'

In the name of full-disclosure, I am moderating a talk at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club by Nunberg next week. But I don't know the guy, I have never met him and I only know him from him from his radio comments. My excitement for Ascent of the A-Word was generated because, after reading so much junk of this topic, I was so impressed with this book. It is so fun, so well-written, and so important because Nunberg gets at many of the root causes of what is wrong with our society and organizations.

Robert Sutton

A note to Amazon readers: If you write a review of this book, don't spell-out the A-word or they not only won't post your review, they won't let you submit a censored one!
Chilele
The reviewer at the Daily Beast said The Ascent of the A-Word was a theory of everything, and it's not that far off. I wouldn't have thought there could be that much to say about the A-Word, but it takes Nunberg from country music to the history of feminism to 1970's self-discovery movements to the nastiness of modern political commentary. It's a great read, a serious book but full of entertaining asides, some of which had me laughing out loud, such as "When you hear somebody proudly declaring himself an a____, the odds are he's not an a____, he's just a dick."

(I was just about to post another version of this review that had the a-word written out when I noticed the warning in the review above. Evidently Amazon will let the word appear in titles and editorial reviews but not customer reviews.)
Obong
Geoff Nunberg continues to be as informative, helpful, entertaining as he was 40 years ago at Columbia. Not to be missed on public radio segments, and this book did not disappoint.
huckman
Somewhat tedious and long winded, as befits a linguist discussing the A word. However, the author does have some contributions to make.
Wen
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

What fascinates me is how the mind of a linguist functions. Nunberg is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information. Why is this important? It gives you some foundation for understanding how and why he would go about collecting, collating, and codifying this large body of research related to his topic.

If you are interested in the various nuances (subtle shadings) of words--not just vulgar, insensitive, or uncivil ones--this is an excellent and entertaining exploration. I am amazed, as anyone with any interest in language usage would be, at both the depth and breadth of this investigation. It could be revealed in the nearly 20 pages of "Notes" at the end of the book, but readers only have to see it revealed on every page of this 213- page (of text) book.

It is truly a delight and pleasure to find someone as deeply immersed in literature, conscious of the various effects and influences of history, not only familiar with and responsive to popular culture, but sensitized to technology and how it is changing the face of language usage, and affected by current language manifestations, who can blend and synthesize these various elements and effects into a comfortable, easy-going, understandable, and engaging narrative. Impressive, to say the least. Nunberg's linguistic analysis is a joy to experience.

I was especially pleased with Nunberg's inclusion of the effects of technology: "Technology," he writes, "has played a big role here, as it always has in the past. Since the nineteenth century, every new form of communication has multiplied the opportunities for unwelcomed intrusions on our persons and privacy" (p. 158).

Incidentally, in addition to the "Notes" at the back of the book (referred to above), I loved Nunberg's footnotes, set off by an asterisk at the bottom of pages throughout the book. They were often personal insights, interesting additional knowledge, a study, statistic, or poll, further explanation or clarification, or a definition. They were always informative, and I appreciated having them located right in front of readers (at the bottom of pages), not hidden, not located at the back of the book, and not "available online."

Nunberg tells great stories, offers interesting anecdotes, cites wonderful examples, provides great statistics, and supplies readers with such a large offering of varied and engaging supporting material, that it makes this book one you'll have a hard time putting down once you start reading it. (I loved the examples he used as you begin reading the book. Absolutely perfect!)

Readers, too, will love Nunberg's final two pages in which he offers readers a roadmap for respect for each other, restraint in the use of public discourse (especially in response to the public discourse of others who have chosen to take the low road), "forbearance in the face of other people's assholism in public life," and "the predilection for provocative rhetoric."

This truly is an outstanding book that readers will appreciate on many different levels. It is challenging and yet informative, entertaining and yet comprehensive, erudite and yet accessible. Read it for the history, read it for the numerous examples, read it for the excellent narrative, or just read it for the titillation. It satisfies on all levels.
Gold as Heart
Laugh out loud funny, but sometimes uncomfortably accurate in the author's appraisal of the coarsening of our everyday speech. It doesn't pull punches, not for the faint of heart! I think you will enjoy this one. Recommended.
Ckelond
I was browsing CITY LIGHT BOOKSTORE after a few shots at VESUVIO when I came across this little gem of a book. Both erudite and clever, this is one of the most fun reads I have had in years. Bravo!
Nunberg explains the A-word - its history, its modern connotations, its relation to other terms of derision, and the ways the increasing use of the word over the past decades reflects a zeitgeist that manifests in life and politics.
Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years ebook
Author:
Geoffrey Nunberg
Category:
Words Language & Grammar
Subcat:
EPUB size:
1119 kb
FB2 size:
1555 kb
DJVU size:
1214 kb
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Publisher:
PublicAffairs; 1 edition (August 14, 2012)
Pages:
272 pages
Rating:
4.1
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