English professor Anne Curzan actually encourages her students to use slang in class. A language historian, she is fascinated by how people use words—and by how this changes.

Why you should listen

Anne Curzan is a collector of slang words, a dissector of colloquialisms and a charter of language evolution. To put it most simply, she is a Professor of English at the University of Michigan who studies how the English language works and how it has changed over time. As she puts it in her talk, “The English language is rich, vibrant and filled with the creativity of the people who speak it.”

In addition to sitting on the usage panel for American Heritage dictionary since 2005, Curzan is also an author—her latest book is called Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History. She also co-hosts the show “That’s What They Say” on Michigan Radio, all about language and grammar, and writes regularly for The Chronicle of Higher Education’s language blog, Lingua Franca.

Anne Curzan’s TED talks