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When Words Were Worth Fighting Over
by Geoff Nunberg
October 03, 2012
The New York Times warned that it would accelerate the deterioration of the language.
debates about language are always proxy wars.
They’re the dream work of culture, the play within a play, where social anxieties are staged as soap opera.
When you hear people keening histrionically about the confusion of “like” and “as,” you can safely assume there’s something more going on.
David Skinner understands that it takes some cultural background to explain why “so many sane and distinguished persons could see a dictionary as representing the end of the world.” True, for a lot of those people, attacking the Third was simply a way of asserting their own claims to refinement.
Nowadays, a dictionary entry is about as hard to come by as a Facebook profile.
Since the time of Webster’s Third, people have been framing usage issues as a pseudo-philosophical dispute between “descriptivist” and “prescriptivist” views of language, the one telling it like it is and the other telling it like it ought to be.
all the old distinctions have been effaced — between high and low, formal and casual, print and oral, public and private.
Where do you locate the mainstream of English in the flood of words that pours in over all the different screens in our lives? It’s not a stream at all, just a limitless ocean of yammer. Even with their modern tools, you have to feel for the lexicographers who are out there trying to sift through it all.
we still cling to the idea that a dictionary entry confers official recognition on a word.
When the OED announced that it would be including texting abbreviations like “LOL,” The New York Times praised it for “an affirmation of the plasticity of the English language.”
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Mark Forsyth: People have begun ‘twerking’ which is terrible
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The Dictionary of Genomics, …
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Eleventh Edition released June 15, 2007