Gosh, why can't people just accept that the -ING form has five functions, including if you insist on Latin terms the gerund and the participle but also forms that Latin just doesn't have? Why is that so hard? Last month I fought for five days with a student who insisted on clinging to the terms he learned in the 1950s ... People let other fields of science advance, refine, and develop. Why must grammar remain unchanged?That last sentence gets at something about linguistic prescriptions that a lot of people have commented on, like Deborah Cameron in Verbal Hygiene (1995:12):
Within the privileged space of the academy … where it is normally a sign of intellectual competence to broach the question ‘why?’, questioning the minutiae of linguistic conventions is a sign of incomplete or faulty socialization.Lately, I've taken a new tack with some non-linguist colleagues in such discussions: I've tried stressing that the standard has a real role, that I try hard to use standard forms in formal writing, etc., but … [fill in standard rhetoric]. That's proven stunningly ineffective … on the next linguistic feature that comes up, discussion quickly seems to loop back around "but what's the proper word/form/structure?" Sigh.