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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


So the Senate shoots down the same-sex marriage ban (although the seemingly partisan 49-48 vote is disheartening), and Ann Coulter's new book is #4 on Amazon (insert your own puking sound here). Regardless of what you think about these events -- be you righty or lefty -- this sounds like a must-read for anyone who is interested in the manufacturing of opinion: "Unspeak," journalist Steven Poole makes a compelling case for the value of literary rigor as a tool for cutting through political cant." (Full review at

Re the design: it's clear what the reversed "E" is meant to suggest. Is it too restrained? Would you have done more, typographically-speaking?


Eileen said...

I like it- very simple- and yet not. Much like the news these days. Can't we all just get along!

essrog said...

The design is probably simpler than it needs to be, but when there is an unusual title, it's sometimes best for it to take center stage and let the decoration (design flourishes, etc) take a break.

Unfortunately, I doubt that "unspeak (tm)" will ever displace or even rival Orwell's "doublespeak"'s place in the English language.

Further: after reading the SFgate review, the book sounds a lot like a somewhat politically-neutered, "fair-and-balanced" version of "Don't Think of An Elephant" by George Lakoff. I've never read Lakoff's book and the cover design is lame. But, its basic idea, "framing", did get a lot of currency a couple years ago and will no doubt influence political strategy (both left and right) in the future.

(Ok ok - maybe "politically-neutered" is a bit harsh - let's just say that the focus of the book seems to stay firmly inside academic linguistic interest and goes no further)

Steven Poole said...

Actually, Orwell never used the word "doublespeak".

I am not an academic linguist and am very far from being "fair and balanced" on issues such as global warming or torture.

I quite like the cover, though I also like the UK one (you can see it at my site).

Steven Poole

Joseph said...

Good luck with the book, Steven. I hope it does well. It's most certainly on my short list of summer reading.

Ben said...

I like the simplicity of the cover, though I feel like the kerning is a little screwy. Is it supposed to be this way?

essrog said...

As a matter of fact I do enjoy sticking my foot in my mouth. Good times.

I stand corrected regarding Orwell, as well as my apparent misreading of the SFgate article. Thanks for coding your site address into your post, Steven. Good luck.

(God bless the relative anonymity of the internets)

Javier said...

Looks like a missed opportunity to me!

Orwell said "doublethink"


essrog said...

Orwell = "newspeak", "doublethink"

Steven Poole said...

Thanks for the wishes of luck ;-)

Anonymous said...

It's a good start, but it looks sloppy. Type choices and proportions need to be rethought. The raunchy kerning doesn't help.

Gene Netto said...

I have just bought Unspeak in Jakarta, Indonesia. Love it. Have told my English (ESL) students about it. We are currently reading 1984 (simplified version from Penguin Readers) in class. I accidentally found Unspeak in a bookstore when I was looking for a grammar book. I don’t think the store owners realized that it shouldn’t really be in the English grammar book section. I plan to tell them to put it out the front on display.
The book made me surprised about how much even I have been going along with the media’s Unspeak, without thinking about many of the phrases too deeply. I’m quite critical of government behavior (especially the US). After reading the first few chapters, I’m still shaking my head at how much Unspeak permeates our daily language.
I just read Alastair Campbell’s comments on the Guardian review site. The only point of his that I agree with is that Steven doesn’t criticize the mainstream media enough. They are equally culpable in the creation and dissemination of loaded language.
My students are almost finished 1984. One just sent me an email with some text from an Indonesian newspaper, asking if she had correctly identified Unspeak in a Police Chief’s comments. She had. My students are really getting into this. Many of them experienced life under Soeharto as teenagers or Uni students. One said that it seemed like Soeharto read 1984 and used it like a blueprint. Now they are also looking for examples of Unspeak that were used by Soeharto and Co.
In my opinion, this book will end up becoming a best seller, if it isn’t already.
Good contribution, Steven. Thanks.