A mind-boggling journey through the phenomenon of language, busting nine common myths about humanity’s greatest achievement

A word’s origin doesn’t tell you what it means today
There are languages that change when your mother-in-law is present
Mistakes don’t undermine English, they lay its foundations
The language you speak could make you more prone to accidents
‘Untranslatable’ words are usually anything but
There’s a special part of the brain that produces swear words 
The truth is so much more interesting than the rumours . . .

Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But most of us know as much about language today as we did about physics before Galileo, and the little we know is still largely based on folklore, instinct or hearsay. 

In DON’T BELIEVE A WORD linguist David Shariatmadari takes us on a mind-boggling journey through the science of language, urging us to abandon our prejudices in a bid to uncover the (far more interesting) truth about what we do with words. Exploding nine widely-held myths about language while introducing us to some of the fundamental insights of modern linguistics, David Shariatmadari is an energetic guide to the beauty and quirkiness of humanity’s greatest achievement.

Duffy’s Thoughts On Don’t Believe A Word

Don’t Believe A Word is a real treat for any word nerd or writer. It’s a book about the science of language, so you need to settle into your favourite book nook and avoid all distractions. You need to be in the linguistic zone and feeling focussed if you want to get the most out of this engrossing read.

Think about a time you were on holiday overseas and how instantly comforting it was to hear someone with a familiar accent. You have no idea if this person is Ted Bundy 2.0 or a sketchy con artist about to take you for a ride, but you assume they’ll be friendly. You are more likely to be wary and heighten your street smarts when surrounded by a bunch of foreign locals. However, in a strange land, when you hear a familiar voice from home, you are probably a little more open.

I particularly loved learning the origin of some words such as Lucifer and toilet, and how, over time they now mean something utterly different. I also loved the discovery story of the Rosetta Stone and just how important that discovery was to deciphering long ago languages.

Rosetta Stone

At the back of the book, there is an extensive glossary and pages packed full of references for any word nerd to devour. Just be careful you don’t fall down the rabbit hole of language. If you do, make sure your book nook is set up for a long sitting with supplies at arms reach.

Author David Shariatmadari is an expert in his field and the passion he has for words really shines brightly within the pages. There is plenty to learn with Don’t Believe A Word and some myths which are busted were a revelation to me. A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating read!

Don't Believe A Word book review. A wonderful read exploring language and busting 9 popular word myths.
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Published by Hachette and available from Aug 2019 RRP $32.99