Feb 1 • 1HR 6M

56. Abolish the Language Police

The AP Stylebook runs afoul of common sense -- and the French! NYT's Pamela Paul revisits the cultural-appropriation fiasco of "American Dirt." Plus: Deep-fried Oreos, Tom Wolfe, and 70s decadence


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Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em
Journalistas Nancy Rommelmann and Sarah Hepola on what's burning through the culture right now. Flirtatious banter for serious times.
Episode details

What up with the language police? Nancy and Sarah take on the one-percent who insist on scrubbing the mundane (“he,” “she,” “the”) and the arcane (“graybeard”?) from our mouths on the off-chance the words cause harm or feelings of exclusion. Language is shape-shifting, and good communication aims toward inclusion, but who does it help when we replace basic words with the un-fun, the opaque, and the workshopped? Sarah and Nancy may disagree on how to pronounce Latinx (“Lah-TEENix”? “LaTINKS”?) but agree with Substacker Rob Henderson when he writes that “only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary, because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.”

Speaking of language, New York Times Opinion writer and former head of the Times Book Review Pamela Paul revisits the novel American Dirt and its author Jeanine Cummins, both fed to the cultural appropriation fires of 2020. More than a hundred writers wrote an open letter denouncing Cummins to Oprah Winfrey (who’d made American Dirt an Oprah pick), and such campaigns have left publishers running in fear, but the public? They made the book a bestseller.

Plus: Nancy and Sarah on deep-fried anything, the legacy of Tom Wolfe (the best American novelist on the subject of “status”) and some cracking 20th-C essays about the sexual revolution, a time when “finding yourself” left many people lost.

In the bonus: Sarah takes us to MILF Manor, while Nancy talks about her mom and memory loss, wishing a pox on those who prey on the elderly. An update on journalist Felicia Sonmez, star of the 2022 melodrama, “As the Washington Post Turns.” Then it’s into the hot boxes, of which Sarah’s appears to be gushing lava, lots and lots of lava … And we tease our next guest. You may call him “Map Daddy”; we call him friend.

Please note! Zoom hangs for paid subscribers will be the first Sunday of each month. We gather THIS SUNDAY, Feb 5, at 8pm ET/5pm PT. We’ll send a Zoom link the day-of. Will Sarah wear a wig? Will Nancy wear a halter? Find out.

Come for the deep-fried Oreos, stay for the MILF Manor recap and straight talk. Isn’t it time to become a paid or free subscriber?

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