Michael Erard is the author of Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners (Free Press). His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Wired, Slate and many other publications. His book about what we say (but wish we didn’t), Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, came out in 2007 (Pantheon).


Michael Erard is an author and journalist who writes about language, languages, and the people who use and study them. Based in Maine, he’s newest book is Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners (Free Press 2012). Parts of the book were written at the Dobie Paisano ranch on the Ralph A. Johnston Fellowship awarded by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters in 2008.

He has contributed essays, reportage, and reviews to The New York Times, Science, Wired, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, New Scientist, Seed, the Southwest Review, and many others. He has also contributed essays and chapters to books, and a short story that originally appeared in The North American Review was selected for New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 1999. He has an MA in linguistics and a PhD in rhetoric and linguistics, both from the University of Texas at Austin. His first book, Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, a natural history of verbal error and a cultural history of verbal fluency, was published in 2007 by Pantheon to wide critical acclaim.

Michael Erard
The Elements – Molecules, Atoms and Quarks – of Style

The cipher shared by great poets and the best brand namers is essentially that the littlest things mean the most.

Michael Erard
Imaging the Brain

Using geographical visuals to understand the brain.

Michael Erard
What I Didn’t Write About When I Wrote About Quitting Facebook

The author writes about the genre you could call the Social Media Exile essay.

Michael Erard
Notes on Getting the Daily Newspaper

Michael Erard tells of the experience of sharing the physical newspaper with his son.

Michael Erard
It’s the 16th Ed. of the Chicago Manual of Style and I Feel Fine

Michael Erard reviews the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.

Michael Erard
The Dream Job Project Part II

How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? The results of these questions, part II.

Michael Erard
The Dream Job Project

How do you conceive of the future work to shoot for, and how you'll do it? I invite you to weigh in.

Michael Erard
Notes on Being Born on Soil

At times you hear stories about patriots in exile who want their children to be born in the motherland and supplement by putting dirt from said place under a woman who is giving birth.

Michael Erard
A Short Manifesto on the Future of Attention

Maybe we should be considering a dilemma of a human nature: the future of attention.

Michael Erard

The wake of dead trees is thick behind me, and the others weep and gnash their teeth. Larger trees I leave for some chainsaw to come; I'm a writer, not a lumberjack. Michael Erand on cedars.

Michael Erard
Babel's Nobel

Observers seem to track the nations, not the languages, of the 104 Nobel-winning writers. Yet parsing the list of 25 languages that they wrote in turns up many interesting instances of disproportion.

Michael Erard
Languages as Design Objects

According to new book by linguist David Harrison, "Languages can package knowledge in radically different ways, thus facilitating different ways of conceptualizing, naming, and discussing the world." If languages package information, can they be considered design objects?

Michael Erard
Word Made Flesh

The forgotten discipline of sentence diagramming forces the structure of language to wear the clothes of images. A sentence diagram is less a map than a portrait, and in this vaudeville language is painted, corsetted and trussed.

Michael Erard
The G Word

Google has launched an effort to keep people from using their name as an all-purpose verb. Don't want to be evil? Then don't act as if you can win if you constrain the creative productivity of language.

Creative Opportunities
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