Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language was published by HarperWave, an imprint of HarperCollins, in May 2019 to wide acclaim. It is available in hardback, paperback, e-book, and audiobook (recorded by the author).
A brash, enlightening, and wildly entertaining feminist look at gendered language and the way it shapes us, written with humor and playfulness that challenges words and phrases and how we use them.
“Just the kind of sharp, relevant scholarship needed to continue to inspire the next generation of feminist thought.” — Kirkus
The word bitch conjures many images for many people, but it is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean a female canine, bitch didn’t refer to gender at all—it originated as a gender-neutral word meaning genitalia. A perfectly innocuous word devolving into a female insult is the case for tons more terms, including hussy—which simply meant housewife—or slut, which meant an untidy person and was also used to describe men. These words are just a few among history’s many English slurs hurled at women.
Amanda Montell, reporter and feminist linguist, deconstructs language—from insults and cursing, gossip, and catcalling, to grammar and pronunciation patterns—to reveal the ways it has been used for centuries to keep women and other marginalized genders from power. Ever wonder why so many people are annoyed when women talk with vocal fry or use the word like as a filler? Or why certain gender-neutral terms stick and others don’t? Or where stereotypes of how women and men speak come from in the first place? Montell’s irresistible humor shines through, making linguistics not only approachable but both downright hilarious and profound, demonstrated in chapters such as:
- Slutty Skanks and Nasty Dykes: A Comprehensive List of Gendered Insults I Hate (but Also Kind of Love?)
- Women Didn’t Ruin the English Language—They, Like, Invented It
- Fuck it: An Ode to Cursing While Female
Montell effortlessly moves between history and popular culture to explore these questions and more. Wordslut gets to the heart of our language, marvels at its elasticity, and sheds much-needed light into the biases that shadow women in our culture and our consciousness.
More praise for Amanda Montell
“As a bitch who says bitch and loves to talk about bitches, this smart and freakishly entertaining book awakens parts of my brain I didn’t know existed while tickling all my foul-mouthed, feminist, word-obsessed fancies. If you’re a human who speaks English and aren’t reading this, then what on earth are you doing.” — Samantha Irby, author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Meaty
“I get so jazzed about the future of feminism knowing that Amanda Montell’s brilliance is rising up and about to explode worldwide.” — Joey Soloway
“This feisty, fascinating critique of the English language will make you feel smarter after every paragraph. Amanda Montell’s analyses are sharp and provocative but also funny and accessible. She’s the cool feminist nerd we need.” — Whitney Cummings, creator of 2 Broke Girls
“Wordslut is filled with fascinating info about the sexist history of our language: I literally said ‘whoa’ multiple times while reading this book. Wordslut is so witty, and brilliant, and men and women both need to read it.” — Blythe Roberson, author of How to Date Men When You Hate Men
“As funny as it is informative, this book will have you laughing out loud while you contemplate the revolutionary power of words. Who knew sociolinguistics could be so damn entertaining? Leave it to a master of language like Amanda Montell to pull off this semantic magic trick.” — Camille Perri, author of The Assistants and When Katie Met Cassidy
“Amanda Montell has given validation and tools to those of us who always felt wrong in our guts about the way gender permeates our means of communication and the criticisms often lobbed at women for how we talk. Wordslut is brilliant fun and empowers all women to give ourselves a voice.“ — Gaby Dunn, author of Bad With Money