‘Words we hate’ becomes a best-selling book

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 4:52 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Who knew a book about words that annoy most of us would catch the attention of so many? Not necessarily one linguistics professor at UNR who has a best seller on her hands.

Professor Valerie Fridland would like, literally advocate for the use of these words despite the fact they are despised.

“Every semester I start off by asking my students what they notice in language,” says Professor Valerie Fridland, a linguistics professor at University of Nevada Reno. “Not once have I’ve ever gotten, I really love how people say “like.”

The word “like” she says goes back centuries. And its evolution in our language comes from areas we might not be familiar with.

After years of researching and explaining some of these words now commonly used, Professor Fridland wrote the book, “Like Literally Dude”, arguing for the good in bad English.

“A lot of times what we do is we shift very subtlety the meaning of a word over time,” says Fridland. “A great example is ‘nice.’ It used to mean ignorant. And now of course it means something totally different.”

She says many times a word can be altered by a group of people who may be marginalized.

People of color, women, or those of lower economic status. It is commonly used in these communities for a time, and then something happens.

“It is usually a low-level tendency is someone’s speech,” says Fridland. “But maybe that somebody is in high school and is cool or they are chill or dangerous or edgy. And so those features with their speech start to get associated with those traits; in so far as those traits are attractive to other people, they start to take that variation and place it in their own speech.”

She says this is one reason why some words are disliked by other groups who tightly hold on to tradition. But shunning the new word or its definition is folly.

Take the word “hard.”

“Difficult, but what does hardy mean? Not difficult at all,” she says.

It is said, “nothing stays the same.” That might just as well apply to our language.

Professor Fridland will be at Grassroots Books on Friday, May 12, 2023, at 3:30.