Ascent of the A-Word Assholism, the First Sixty Years

ISBN-10: 1610392582
ISBN-13: 9781610392587
Edition: N/A
Authors: Geoffrey Nunberg
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Description: It first surfaced in the gripes of GIs during World War II and was captured early on by the typewriter of a young Norman Mailer. Within a generation it had become a basic notion of our everyday moral life, replacing older reproaches like lout and  More...

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Book details

List price: $17.50
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 6/11/2013
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 272
Size: 5.22" wide x 7.76" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.550
Language: English

It first surfaced in the gripes of GIs during World War II and was captured early on by the typewriter of a young Norman Mailer. Within a generation it had become a basic notion of our everyday moral life, replacing older reproaches like lout and heel with a single inclusive category––a staple of country outlaw songs, Neil Simon plays, and Woody Allen movies. Feminists made it their stock rebuke for male insensitivity, the est movement used it for those who didn’t “get it,” and Dirty Harry applied it evenhandedly to both his officious superiors and the punks he manhandled.The asshole has become a focus of collective fascination for us, just as the phony was for Holden Caulfield and the cad was for Anthony Trollope. From Donald Trump to Ann Coulter, from Mel Gibson to Anthony Weiner, from the reality TV prima donnas to the internet trolls and flamers, assholism has become the characteristic form of modern incivility, which implicitly expresses our deepest values about class, relationships, authenticity, and fairness. We have conflicting attitudes about the A-word––when a presidential candidate unwittingly uttered it on a live mic in 2000, it confirmed to some that he was a man of the people and to others that he was a boor. But considering how much the word does for us, and to us, it hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves––at least until now.

He is a principal scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center & a consulting professor in the Department of Linguistics at Stanford University. He is also chair of the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary of the english Language. He lives in San Francisco.

Introduction
The Word
The Uses of Vulgarity
The Rise of Talking Dirty
The Asshole Comes of Age
Men Are All Assholes
The Asshole in the Mirror
The Allure of Assholes
The Assholism of Public Life
Notes
Acknowledgments
A Note on the Figures
Index

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