In his new book, Ascent of the A-Word, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg looks at how the term took root among griping World War II GIs — and how its meaning evolved in the '60s and '70s. He tells Fresh Air that crude words are "wonderfully revealing."
Nunberg's new collection of commentary (originally written for broadcast and print) is Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Confrontational Times. Nunberg is senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University and consulting full professor of linguistics at Stanford University. He also writes for the Sunday New York Times Week in Review.