Monday, July 09, 2007

Peevology 101: Let's get some basics clear

One of Madison's most famous bloggers is Ann Althouse, UW professor of Law. I do not read her,* but she's so big that there's a parody of her blog, here (also the source of the graphic). In looking for reactions to yesterday's sub-Safire peevology, I found that Althouse had blogged about the topic. She calls it:
A good column, by Jaimie Epstein, about the travails of looking for love on line when you're a language buff and you have to get to know people from their writing.
There's just one little tiny point to make: Epstein is no "language buff"; she's a peevologist. A 'buff' is a fan of something, an enthusiast. I know lots of language buffs — some of them love crossword puzzles or learning languages spoken where they're going to travel, and some read about word histories, or they develop remarkable skills at language play of various sorts like punning. Some just develop great ears for what's happening around them linguistically. Hey, some of them read blogs about language and post smart comments.

Look back at Jaimie Epstein's column. Even the bitching isn't about language, but first about knowledge of literature. Then it's about spelling, especially of names, and then typos in email messages. Sure, the piece is called "Sentence Sensibility", she complains about "grievous abuses of syntax" (no examples given), declares herself a "usage addict" and to be "afflicted with an excess language-sensitivity gene" (as Wishydig noted), but none of the substance is really about language as we understand it: structure, history, variation, for instance. And where is the love … of language? As Wishydig rightly puts it: "She's addicted to complaining about usage."
Rule 1: Do not expect the peevologist to actually talk about language.
Rule 2: Do not expect the peevologist to actually like language.
*There's a tiny (until now) inside joke on this blog that's comes from Altmouse: She runs quotes about her in her header. The joke, of course, is that Althouse's call her 'divine' and 'formidable', while mine have included variants of the "a few Xs short of a Y" snowclone and worse.


The Ridger, FCD said...

Those rules are absolutely spot on.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks ... It may become a series.