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Praise for Unspeak in the press

If the nonsense and chicanery spouted by those in power gets up your nose, Steven Poole’s Unspeak will make compelling reading . . . It will do for the spin-doctor’s art what Naomi Klein did for branding in No Logo . . . at its satirical best, Unspeak‘s implacable rage harks back to the thundering tirades of the Augustan era. That’s good news: in an age dominated by oily political spin, Poole promotes scepticism, clarity and independence of thought.

[A] passionate and necessary attack on political rhetoric . . . a persuasive and enjoyable polemic.

Unspeak, writer Steven Poole’s term for a phrase or word that contains a whole unspoken political argument, deserves a place in every journalist’s daily vocabulary . . . should be required reading for reporters and editors everywhere.

Poole’s scholarly prose is razor sharp in its intelligence and wit, and the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in modern politics or language […] To misname something is to deny its reality. By cutting through false names, Poole restores the world to the reader.

Steven Poole’s admirable object is something like moral alertness, founded on close reading. Unspeak is in the best sense a stimulus and a provocation. Unmasking unspeak is addictive, and anyone can play.

Useful […] cool yet impassioned […] Whatever their other faults, the British care about the English language in ways that all but a few Americans simply do not.

It’s probably the kiss of death to any book to describe it as ‘important’. None the less, Poole has managed to nail one of the most insidious spectres of modern life, doing so in a manner that’s constantly stimulating as well as entertaining. His style is concise, perceptive and light enough to see off any risk of pedantry.

A sharply articulated, well-documented exposé of the political and economic manipulation of language . . . He offers reasoned criticism of machinations by governments, media and interest groups, both left and right. A necessary public service . . . Fans of Orwell, take heart.

Kirkus Reviews

With ample outrage and barbed wit, Poole unpacks some of the most prevalent – and politically charged – expressions animating today’s political and media discourse, from ‘intelligent design’ to ‘global warming,’ ‘collateral damage’ to the ‘war on terror.’ . . . This book takes no word at face value, which will anger some and enlighten others, just as a book of social and linguistic commentary should.

Publishers Weekly

His arguments are supported by abundant documentation; his sources are manifold and seemingly inexhaustible, his analyses rigorous, acute and enlightening.

James Grieve, Canberra Times

Thought-provoking analysis of an insidious trend.


Engaging, illuminating . . . the pitch is pretty close to perfect.

Jon Elek, Time Out

Poole has a sharp eye for hidden meanings and sub-texts. His account of politicians’ addiction to the word ‘community’ is a tour de force . . . By emphasising that one should always ‘look to the language’, and going about his task with such forensic brio, Poole has done us all a favour.

Francis Wheen, The Liberal

Not just timely and welcome but (you’ll feel once you’ve read this book) urgent . . . We should all be grateful to Steven Poole for his public spiritedness in undertaking it. Will someone please give him a medal, or a government office, or a slot on the radio for daily updates? Unspeak will convince you that we need to be vigilant against ‘the words’.

Claire Harman, London Evening Standard

Impressive and salutary . . . There is no doubt that unspeak is among us and that we must guard against it.

Poole gives us a masterful dissection of the Bush government’s cynical manipulation of the terms used to discuss environmental issues . . . His account of the whole complex of language associated with the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘defence of freedom’ is . . . meticulous and convincing.

An excellent and timely book . . . an extremely well-written, compelling polemic . . . should be essential reading for anyone, and in particular any journalist or commentator, with an interest in world affairs.

Stephen Price, Sunday Business Post

A timely and informative reminder for us to monitor how we use words, but, more importantly, to evaluate how others do too.

If the current state of democratic discourse disturbs you, read this book.

Crap from start to finish.


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