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Mother Tongue

The surprising history of women's words -'Fascinating, intriguing, witty, a gem of a book' (Kate Mosse)
  • Author
    • Jenni Nuttall
Regular price £10.99
Regular price Sale price £10.99

Anticipated publication date

May 02, 2024

We will deliver the product within a reasonable period of time following the publication date

The publication date is an estimated date only and is subject to change.

We anticipate that the book will be published on this date. However, should the estimated publication date change for whatever reason, we will notify you within a reasonable period of time.

A rich, provocative and entertaining history of women's words - of the language we have, and haven't, had to share our lives.

'Fascinating, intriguing, witty, a gem of a book' KATE MOSSE


'This superb book teems with historical marvels and their 21st century resonances.' REBECCA WRAGG SYKES, author of Kindred

So many of the words we use to articulate the experiences women share feel awkward or alien. Medical terms are accurate but antiseptic. Slang often perpetuates stereotypes. Where are the plain, honest words for women's daily lives?

From the dawn of Old English to the present day, Dr. Jenni Nuttall guides readers through the evolution of the words we have used to describe bodies, menstruation, sexuality, the consequences of male violence, childbirth, paid and unpaid work, and gender.

Along the way, she argues that, paradoxically, as women have made slow progress towards equality, we've lost some of the most expressive and eloquent bits of our vocabulary.

Inspired by Nuttall's deep knowledge of the English language as well as conversations with her teenage daughter, this is a book for anyone who loves language - and for feminists who want to look to the past in order to move forward.

'Full of interesting observations ... Entertaining' PHILIP HENSHER, SPECTATOR

'One of the wittiest and most insightful books of the year ... A must- have for any lover of language, history or women' BUZZ MAGAZINE

'There is a nugget of joy and wisdom on every single page' VICTORIA WHITWORTH, historian and author of Daughter of the Wolf

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  • Published: May 02 2024
  • ISBN: 9780349015316
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Press Reviews

  • Rebecca Wragg Sykes, author of KINDRED
    From the womb-wicket to the child-mighty, and roaring maidens to cunning crones, MOTHER TONGUE encompasses a millennium of enthralling English parlance. Incisively scholarly, affectionately humorous (and sometimes quietly furious), Nuttall sifts the archives of centuries and listens to modern echoes, as lost voices emerge, showing how women have long spoken, and been spoken of. Vivid, philosophical, absorbing and urgent, this superb book teems with historical marvels and their 21st century resonances
  • Victoria Whitworth
    What a revelatory delight of a book. It is richly scholarly, wry and funny, healthily grounded in women's bodily experiences - they don't change but attitudes towards them do, and we are clearly very mistaken if we think we are getting it right and previous generations were unenlightened. There is a nugget of joy and wisdom on every single page
  • Kate Mosse
    Fascinating, intriguing, witty, a gem of a book
  • Kirkus
    A fresh, informative perspective on women's lives through the centuries
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    An eye-opening survey of the etymology of words used to identify women's body parts, the kind of work they performed, and the violence they suffered from men in Anglo-Saxon English from the 400s to the 1800s (with brief forays into more recent times). . . . This is required reading for logophiles, feminists, and history buffs
  • Philip Hensher, Spectator
    Full of interesting observations ... Entertaining
  • Buzz Magazine
    Jenni Nuttall's Mother Tongue will easily be one of the wittiest and most insightful books of the year
  • Hannah Betts, Daily Telegraph
  • Adam Sharp, New European
    A great book on the history of women's words in the English language