Bryan Garner on David Foster Wallace and modern American usage.

Language Guru Bryan Garner Doesn't Mince Words About Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style

Language Guru Bryan Garner Doesn't Mince Words About Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style

Risks and rewards of the creative life.
May 18 2015 4:21 PM

Bryan Garner on David Foster Wallace, Steven Pinker, and Why Language Matters

The lexicographer and author of Modern American Usage discusses the DFW essay that changed his life.

Bryan Garner.
Bryan Garner.

Photo byWynn Fuqua

Listen to this episode of The Moment with guest Bryan Garner:

This week on The Moment, Brian Koppelman’s guest is Bryan Garner, author, lexicographer, and subject of David Foster Wallace’s essay "Authority and American Usage." Garner talks about his book, Modern American Usage, and how his life changed after Wallace’s essay ran in both Harper’s and the book Consider the Lobster.


Koppelman and Garner also cover their mutual love of language and why descriptivists and prescriptivists just can’t get along. Other highlights include Garner’s personal warmth for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Garner’s take on why Steven Pinker’s new book on language “isn’t very good,” and the debate on whether or not prescriptivists may have literally lost the fight on the definition of literally.

Slate’s The Moment is sponsored by Quickbooks Self Employed. Visit for your free 30-day trial. And by Buy and print official U.S. postage using your own computer and printer, and save up to 80 percent compared with a postage meter. Sign up for a no-risk trial and a $110 bonus offer when you visit and use the promo code MOMENT.

Topics this week:

People this week:

Brian Koppelman is a filmmaker (Rounders, Solitary Man), essayist, and podcaster. His latest project is the upcoming Showtime series Billions.