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Book Review: THE WORDS WE LIVE BY: THE CREEDS, MOTTOES, AND PLEDGES THAT HAVE SHAPED AMERICA (edited by Brian Burrell) : AH

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: August 11, 2001 
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THE WORDS WE LIVE BY: THE CREEDS, MOTTOES, AND PLEDGES THAT HAVE SHAPED AMERICA, edited by Brian Burrell, The Free Press, 378 pages, $26.

"The aim of this book," writes Burrell, "is to show how words quietly influence our attitudes and opinions." He achieves this by presenting a comprehensive collection of oaths, codes of ethics, rules, and inscriptions and showing the role that each has played in the nation's development. Included are many unfamiliar items, such as the Mafia Initiation Oath and the creed of the Elvis Presley Imitators International Association, as well as better-known pledges like the Boy Scout Oath and the Hippocratic Oath. Anecdotes and commentary on the origins of the passages, what the writers meant, and what the words mean to us today complete Burrell's study of America's ideals and principles.

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