BAAL Book Prize Winner 1996
In this award winning book Deborah Cameron takes a serious look at popular attitudes towards language and examines the practices by which people attempt to regulate its use. Instead of dismissing the practice of 'verbal hygiene', as a misguided and pernicious exercise, however, she argues that popular discourse about language values; good and bad, right and wrong, serves an important function for those engaged in it.
A series of case-studies deal with specific examples of verbal hygiene: the regulation of 'style' by editors, the teaching of English grammar in schools, the movements for and against so-called 'politically-correct' language and the recent explosion of advice to women on how they can speak more effectively. In each case she argues that verbal hygiene provides a way of making sense of linguistic phenomena, and that it represents a symbolic attempt to impose order on the social world.
Addressed to linguistics, professional language-users of all kinds, and to anyone interested in language and culture, Verbal Hygiene, calls for legitimate concerns about language and value to be discussed, by experts and lay-speakers alike, in a rational and critical spirit.