Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

by Amanda Montell


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A brash, enlightening, and wildly entertaining feminist look at gendered language and the way it shapes us, written with humor and playfulness that challenges words and phrases and how we use them.

“I get so jazzed about the future of feminism knowing that Amanda Montell’s brilliance is rising up and about to explode worldwide.”—Jill Soloway

The word bitch conjures many images for many people, but it is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean a female canine, bitch didn’t refer to gender at all—it originated as a gender-neutral word meaning genitalia. A perfectly innocuous word devolving into a female insult is the case for tons more terms, including hussy—which simply meant housewife—or slut, which meant an untidy person and was also used to describe men. These words are just a few among history’s many English slurs hurled at women.

Amanda Montell, reporter and feminist linguist, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing, gossip, and catcalling to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women and other marginalized genders from power. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women talk with vocal fry or use the word like as a filler? Or why certain gender-neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or where stereotypes of how women and men speak come from in the first place?

Montell effortlessly moves between history, science, and popular culture to explore these questions and more—and how we can use the answers to effect real social change. Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound, demonstrated in chapters such as:

  • Slutty Skanks and Nasty Dykes: A Comprehensive List of Gendered Insults
  • How to Embarrass the Shit Out of People Who Try to Correct Your Grammar
  • Fuck it: An Ode to Cursing While Female
  • Cyclops, Panty Puppet, Bald Headed Bastard and 100+ Other Things to Call Your Genitalia

Montell effortlessly moves between history and popular culture to explore these questions and more. Wordslut gets to the heart of our language, marvels at its elasticity, and sheds much-needed light into the biases that shadow women in our culture and our consciousness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062868879
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 05/28/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 189,081
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Amanda Montell is a writer and reporter from Baltimore with bylines in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, The Rumpus, Byrdie.com, and WhoWhatWear, where she is the staff features editor. As a pop linguist, Amanda's insights have been featured in Glamour, Bustle, Refinery29, Hello Giggles, and Bust Magazine. Amanda graduated from NYU with a degree in linguistics. She lives in Los Angeles. Find her on Instagram @amanda_montell.

Table of Contents

Chapter 0 Meet sociolinguistics: what all the cool feminists are talking about 1

Chapter 1 Slutty skank hoes and nasty dykes: a comprehensive list of gendered insults i hate (but also kind of love?) 21

Chapter 2 Wait … what does the word woman mean anyway?: plus other questions of sex, gender, and the language behind them 51

Chapter 3 "mm-hmm, girl, you're right": how women talk to each other when dudes aren't around 79

Chapter 4 Women didn't ruin the english language-they, like, invented it 111

Chapter 5 How to embarrass the shit out of people who try to correct your grammar 135

Chapter 6 How to confuse a catcaller (and other ways to verbally smash the patriarchy) 169

Chapter 7 Fuck it: an ode to cursing while female 193

Chapter 8 "Cackling" clinton and "sexy" scarjo: the struggle of being a woman in public 211

Chapter 9 Time to make this book just a little bit gayer 229

Chapter 10 Cyclops, panty puppet, bald-headed bastard (and 100+ other things to call your genitalia) 253

Chapter 11 So … in one thousand years, will women rule the english language? 275

Acknowledgments 289

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