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Through the etymology of words, the OED exhibits the shape-shifting nature of language across time, reflecting how it bends to the task of describing our evolving human experience. But is all change good? What is the role of the dictionary in reporting, recording, and refereeing language variation and change?

Linguist, political commentator and author of The Power of Babel and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, John McWhorter talks with genre-busting author of House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski about whether dictionaries support or inhibit the idiosyncratic use of language as a means of creative expression.

Presented as part of the Library Foundation’s project, Hollywood is a Verb: Los Angeles Tackles the Oxford English Dictionary.

John McWhorter

John McWhorter teaches linguistics, music history, philosophy and American Studies at Columbia University. He is the author of The Power of Babel, Doing Our Own Thing, Our Magnificent Bastard Tounge, What Language Is, and the upcoming Words On The Move, and his academic specialty is language change and contact. His academic books on language include Defining Creole and Language Interrupted. He also writes on race as well as language for Time, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Beast, and a monthly column on language for The Atlantic. McWhorter has published four audiovisual courses with the Teaching Company and has appeared often on National Public Radio (and twice at TED).


Mark Z. Danielewski

Mark Z. Danielewski was born in New York City and lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of House of Leaves, The Whalestoe Letters, Only Revolutions, The Fifty Year Sword, and The Familiar.


Howard A. Rodman

Howard A. Rodman wrote Savage Grace starring Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2009 Spirit Awards, and August, starring Josh Hartnett and David Bowie. He also wrote Joe Gould’s Secret, based on the memoir by famed New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell. He is the author of the novel, Destiny Express, set in the pre-war German filmmaking community. He is the president of the Writers Guild of America, West; a professor of screenwriting at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts; an Artistic Director of the Sundance Screenwriting Labs; and a member of the National Film Preservation Board. In 2013, in recognition of his contributions, he was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the government of France.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 7 PM.

 

Standby Policy:
Standby numbers are distributed in person only one hour before the program, on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is no advance wait list for full programs. Standby patrons will be admitted subject to availability. Most programs will be available via podcast.

 

Book Signing Policy:
ALOUD is one of many free programs at the Los Angeles Public Library made possible by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. Most ALOUD author programs are followed by book signings. At least one copy of the author’s book must be purchased from The Library Store in order to participate in any post-program book signing, and you will be asked to show proof of purchase. Please be prepared to show your proof of purchase when you enter the book signing line. Proceeds support the Los Angeles Public Library.

 

Main image: Toren van Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563 (From the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam)


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the reservation policy for ALOUD?

    As most ALOUD at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.

  • Why do programs fill so quickly?

    ALOUD provides a unique experience for the public to engage with scholars, authors, and artists in the intimate 235-seat Mark Taper Auditorium. Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit, and check the website on an on-going basis for program availability. Be sure to subscribe to our email alerts, and visit our Media Archive for podcasts and other items from our recent programs.

  • Where does ALOUD take place?

    Unless otherwise noted, ALOUD programs are held at the downtown Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium.

  • Where should I park for ALOUD programs?

    We recommend taking public transportation. Parking for the Central Library is at the Westlawn Garage at 524 S. Flower Street. For more information, visit the Library’s website.

  • Should I purchase the author’s book in advance?

    We encourage you to purchase books from the Library Store. All proceeds benefit the Los Angeles Public Library. Books are made available for purchase when you reserve for a program online, and are also on sale at programs. In order to participate in the book signing, you must purchase at least one book from The Library Store. Members receive discounts on purchases.


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