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The Language of Names

What We Call Ourselves and Why It Matters

About The Book

As delightful and playful as it is profound and serious, The Language of Names is an absolute original -- a fascinating book that reveals us to ourselves, that demonstrates the endless variety of ways in which names shape our daily lives. Drawing on social and literary history, psychology and anthropology, anecdotes, and life stories, biographer Justin Kaplan and novelist Anne Bernays have written a fascinating account of names and naming in contemporary society that touches on class structure, ethnic and religious practices, manners, and everyday life.
Graceful, eloquent, and richly informed, The Language of Names explores and illuminates our favorite subject -- ourselves.

About The Authors

Justin Kaplan is the author of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and of Walt Whitman: A Life, which won the American Book Award. He is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, novelist Anne Bernays.

Anne Bernays is a novelist (including Professor Romeo and Growing Up Rich) and coauthor, with her husband, Justin Kaplan, of Back Then: Two Lives in 1950s New York. Her articles, book reviews and essays have appeared in such major publications as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and The Nation. A long-time teacher of writing, she is coauthor, with Pamela Painter, of the textbook What If? Ms. Bernays currently teaches at Harvard's Nieman Foundation. She and Mr. Kaplan have six grandchildren. They live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Truro, Cape Cod.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (March 10, 1999)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684838670

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Raves and Reviews

David Mehegan The Boston Globe A readable and extraordinarily detailed exploration of human names and naming....irresistible.

Marina Warner The New York Times Book Review Mr. Kaplan and Ms. Bernays's approach is genial, light-handed, as if engaging the reader in party conversation....The Language of Names tackles a rich and fascinating theme.

John Strawn Portland Oregonian An entertaining look at a subject we intuitively regard as of great importance...but rarely think about.

David Crumm Detroit Free Press The authors aren't trying to prove a thesis as much as they are trying to leave us with a sense of wonderment, so that the next time we meet someone, we might linger a moment longer in pondering his or her name.

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