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Google reports about 37,000 hits for "shameless plug of/for my" or "shamelessly plugging my," and the total would be a lot bigger if you allowed for variants like "my shameless self-promotion" and so forth. The phrases are much more common now than they were in the old media, mostly because the new media have dramatically increased the opportunities for self-exposure — Google Blogsearch alone turns up more than 4000 hits for the phrases. The vast majority of these are associated with creative works and activities, in a broad sense of the term: people apologize for shamelessly touting their books, TV appearances, t-shirt designs, videos, high-school band performances, blogs, and new CD's. (Others apologize for shamelessly plugging their hairdresser or a PC they have for sale on Ebay, which seems to me a little unclear on the concept — what's to be ashamed of?) YOTD

The modifier accomplishes several things at once: it concedes that the self-promotion is an impropriety, but one venial enough to be joked about; and it averts the reader's censure with preemptive self-reproach. It reminds me of the way H. W. Fowler described the use of apologies like "saving the reader's reverence" and "if we may adopt the current slang":  "A refinement on the institution of the whipping boy, by which [writers] not only have the boy, but do the whipping."

My new collection The Years of Talking Dangerously was published today by PublicAffairs.


  1. Arnold Zwicky said,

    May 5, 2009 @ 8:08 am

    When I looked just now at, your new book was paired with the 50th anniversary edition of Strunk & White, The Elements of Style!

    Geoff said: Unfortunately the relation isn't reciprocal. What I'd want is to have all the people who went to The Elements of Style referred over to me!

  2. Book Addict said,

    May 5, 2009 @ 11:24 am

    Because comments are "off" for your post "Shy linguists at Berkeley this summer," I am left with no choice but to break what is probably a key rule of the blogosphere by commenting here: please, pretty please, could you offer those classes online? :)

    Thank you.


    A fan and fellow language lover

  3. Ann Burlingham said,

    May 5, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

    Excellent! Now ordered for my bookstore.

  4. Brandon said,

    May 5, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    Huzzah it's available on kindle!

  5. Uri Horesh said,

    June 4, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

    Hear Geoff speak with Terry Gross on WHYY/NPR's Fresh Air:

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