Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

Et Alii

with one comment

I came across a few great pieces on grammar this weekend. The first (thanks Director Spence) is an item from Wikipedia here on a very strange sentence, indeed: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” Amazing.

The second is an entire site, really, devoted to correcting grammar one topic at a time and comprised of consisting of a both a weblog and a podcast. It’s done by the talented Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, currently a science writer and formerly a mad scientist. Check it.

The third is an article by Bill Poser over at Lanuage Log on prescriptivism in grammar, the concept of telling people what grammar is right and what is wrong, a sort of anti-laissez-faire affair, which this weblog wholly and unfortunately propagates at times.

Why is [prescriptivism] bad? In part, it is bad because it falsely assumes the existence of a uniform and unchanging standard and thereby fails to recognize the naturalness of linguistic variation and change. Another reason it is bad is because it is frequently, though not always, based on bad descriptive linguistics. That is, the standard to which it appeals is frequently unreal. The putative standard may be an incorrect description of some previous stage of the language or even a mere figment of the imagination of the pundit, who has evidently not given much thought to the matter. Frequently, but again not always, prescriptive claims are based on unfounded claims for the superiority of the standard usage, e.g. that only the standard usage is “logical”.

Word. Bill continues:

Perhaps the worst thing about prescriptivism is that it is frequently a device for demonstrating the superiority of the pundit and his or her favorite class of people over everyone else. It feeds discrimination, particularly classism. The standards to which pundits appeal are invariably those of a socioeconomic elite. The standard tends to combine their natural speech with details that one can only acquire by means of extensive education.

Again, word. But, I’d like to take this opportunity to stress again, like we’ve done over in our About page, that we’re (mostly) no expert on grammar, and we certainly aren’t doing this to promote ourselves or our knowledge. Instead, we hope that this can be a helpful resource for those who are simply interested in or confused about common grammar rules and how to use them.

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Written by benferguson

2006 Sep 18 at 06:38

Posted in grammar, prescriptivism

One Response

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  1. I am SO happy to read Grammar Girl’s explanation of was/were. I’ve wondered about that umpteen times and never gotten around to doing the research to figure out definitively which is which.


    2006 Sep 18 at 07:00

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