William Grimes and P.J. O’Rourke agree that Leslie Savan’s Slam Dunks and No Brainers is a self-righteous rant that isn’t worth your time. So why did we need two New York Times reviews to say that this book isn’t worth reading?
But Savan has allowed indignation to interrupt the ripening process. She is indignant about the co-option of catchphrases by advertisers, as though the people in the profession of speaking to everyone could be expected to ignore how everyone speaks. She is especially indignant when a commercial’s catchphrase originated among a minority group that experiences "squalid poverty and ill-requited labour." But Budweiser’s appropriation of "Whassup?!" is probably the least damaging thing alcohol has ever done to the poor.
Ms. Savan does not really approve of pop language. She worries that it clicks into place too easily and displaces complex thoughts. She is, too often, a scold, the sort of person who turns the lights on at a party and reminds everyone to drink in moderation. Again and again, she feels called upon to interrupt her narrative with a public service announcement, warning the reader that the easy pleasures of pop language come at a price, turning thinking citizens into shiny corporate pawns.
There is an elitist fallacy at work here. Ms. Savan sees straight through the machinations of advertisers and understands the malevolent forces at work behind pop speech, the "subtle social and political trade-offs." Everyone else, apparently, is not quite smart enough to do the same. They prove this, time and again, by doing things like buying advertised products (bad) or voting for Republicans (very bad).
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