FOL U features John McWhorter on modernizing American English

FOL U features John McWhorter on modernizing American English

FOL University, the Friends of the Library’s scholarly lecture series, returns on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1:30 p.m. with John McWhorter, best-selling author, linguist and Columbia University professor. McWhorter will speak on “Adjusting to Modernity in American English,” a topic that builds on his recent book “Words on the Move: Why English Won’t — and Can’t — Sit Still.” The lecture is in the Lapham Meeting Room and refreshments will be served.

McWhorter will discuss how language is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that accepting linguistic change brings out the conservative in all of us. Language is fundamentally and necessarily flexible, however, and aspects of modern America are making it imperative that we open up to change, particularly in relation to euphemism, profanity, and the use of pronouns, he argues.

McWhorter is an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and the author of “The Language Hoax,” “The Power of Babel” and “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue,” among other works. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, his master’s from New York University, and his doctor’s in Linguistics from Stanford University. He is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and hosts “Lexicon Valley” at His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, among other publications. He appears frequently as an expert commentator on network television and NPR.

 “We are so pleased to welcome back Dr. McWhorter with this timely and fascinating topic,” said Ellen Zimmerman, vice president of the Friends and co-chair of FOL U. For more information on FOL events, see or email [email protected].

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here