Says Who? Book Summary - Says Who? Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Says Who? summary

Anne Curzan

A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares About Words

4 (16 ratings)
17 mins
Table of Contents

    Says Who?
    Summary of 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    Are the rules really the rules?

    Among linguists, the word “impact” is deeply controversial. “Only teeth can be impacted”, a newspaper editor once insisted to the author. But, undoubtedly, we’ve all seen news articles where “impact” was used as a verb to describe how various factors affect the economy. So what’s wrong with it?

    Well, ​many grammarians and usage guides claim that “impact” as a verb is a nonsensical and unacceptable new usage.

    However, this argument is based on a false premise. In fact, “impact” has been a verb in English longer than it’s been a noun. In the early seventeenth century, it meant “to press closely into something.” The noun “impact” only arose in the late eighteenth century to refer to the collision of two bodies. Within a few decades, it began to be used figuratively to talk about effects or influences.

    Grammandos caught on to the growing figurative use and decided to clamp down on it. The largest professional association in the humanities, the Modern Language Association, still asserts that “impact” can’t be used in the figurative sense. Likewise, in 2001, 81 percent of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary voted that the use of the verb “impact” to mean “to have an effect” is unacceptable. 

    There are signs that these usage organizations are loosening up, though. By 2015, only 50 percent of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel disapproved of this use of “impact”.

    So is “impact” as a verb okay or not? The answer might be: it depends. Groups like the Usage Panel –⁠ which was actually disbanded in 2018 –⁠ do play an important role in determining which linguistic usages are acceptable in formal, edited contexts. 

    However, their judgments are far from objective. They’re invariably influenced by the particular linguistic sensibilities and ideological leanings of their members. In other words, their votes don’t make any usage universally right or wrong. Maybe avoid the figurative “impact” in formal writing –⁠ but otherwise, go ahead.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Says Who??

    Key ideas in Says Who?

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Says Who? about?

    Says Who? (2024) is an insightful examination of the complex and ever-evolving nature of language. It explores how perceptions, norms, and social forces shape the way we use and understand language, and how these dynamics impact communication across various contexts. Ultimately, it challenges readers to reexamine their assumptions about “correct” language and consider the nuanced role language plays in shaping identity, culture, and society.

    Says Who? Review

    Says Who? (2017) by Anne Curzan delves into the fascinating world of language and the way it evolves over time. Here's why this book is a great choice for language enthusiasts:

    • Explores the intriguing origins of common phrases and words, shedding light on the ever-changing English language.
    • Analyzes popular misconceptions and grammar rules, challenging readers to question the language norms they take for granted.
    • Provides insightful explanations on how language shapes culture and society, presenting a fresh perspective on everyday communication.

    Who should read Says Who??

    • Students and educators in linguistics, language studies, or communication fields
    • Writers, journalists, and content creators
    • Lifelong learners interested in the intricacies of the English language

    About the Author

    Ann Curzan is a linguist and professor at the University of Michigan, where she also serves as the dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. She writes about language for the blog Lingua Franca for the Chronicle of Higher Education and for the column “Talking About Words” in Michigan Today. As a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel and the American Dialect, she helps to gauge the acceptability of usages of words and grammatical constructions as well as voting on the Word of the Year.

    Categories with Says Who?

    Book summaries like Says Who?

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Says Who? FAQs 

    What is the main message of Says Who??

    Question the sources of your language beliefs for better communication.

    How long does it take to read Says Who??

    Reading time varies. Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is Says Who? a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Says Who? is worth reading to understand language influences in critical thinking.

    Who is the author of Says Who??

    The author of Says Who? is Anne Curzan.

    What to read after Says Who??

    If you're wondering what to read next after Says Who?, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Leading with Light by Jennifer Mulholland
    • Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
    • Do the New You by Steven Furtick
    • Sparked by Jonathan Fields
    • Radical Humility by Urs Koenig
    • The Mindful Body by Ellen J. Langer
    • Adaptive Markets by Andrew W. Lo
    • Get the Picture by Bianca Bosker
    • Third Millennium Thinking by Saul Perlmutter
    • Untangle Your Emotions by Jennie Allen