Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prescriptivist pratfalls

It always strikes me in reading prescriptivists in the media how often they have to apologize. Take this excerpt, paraphrased from today's Word Court in the local paper:
Q: You have often said X. So, to do Y, as you recently did, is invalid.

A: Thanks for holding me to my standards. But ...
Don't get me wrong, I apologize often for mistakes I make, and the reader in this case was not entirely getting the point. But if your work products are such that you're doing this all the time, maybe something is off somewhere.

The problem at hand is constantly making sweeping generalizations about usage without any kind of sound understanding of language structure and usage, language history, and related issues.

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