In this conversation, John McWhorter and Ilan Stavans will discuss how language reveals the anger we carry inside, as well as how “nasty” words change over time. This event is part of the Politics and Poetry: A Point/Counterpoint Series, which examines our current crossroads, both nationally and globally, from the perspective of opinion writers, poets, activists, linguists and historians.
John McWhorter teaches linguistics, philosophy and music history at Columbia University; hosts Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast; and is contributing editor at The Atlantic. He has written over 20 books, including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language (2001), Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English (2008) and Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca (2017). His next books will be Nine Nasty Words and The Elect (both 2021).
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Studies at Amherst and the publisher of Restless Books. His most recent books are The Seventh Heaven: Travels Through Jewish Latin America (2019), How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish (2020) and Selected Translations: Poems 2000-2021 (2021). He is the recipient of numerous international awards and honors, and his work has been translated into 20 languages and adapted into film, radio, TV and theater.