Friday, December 03, 2004

At a Loss for Words and Grammar

Today's Guardian has a review of the latest "What have they done to the English language?" tome from the UK. John Humphrys has written Lost for Words, which is still unavailable in the US as far as I can tell. The reviewer, Neil Taylor, is more accomodating of spelling and usage shifts than the old educated minions like myself. He suggests three simple rules for his spirited Anti-Humphrys Campaign:

1) Grumpy old journalists might be retiring, but the language is not. Let it get on with things.
2) Learn the rules, but understand they are not set in stone. Because there is nothing inherently logical about grammar, getting it wrong does not make you a simpleton or a moral weakling.
3) When language changes, do not whinge. Enjoy it.

Now I might agree, but The Angry Anthro gets more than a tad miffed at telegenic pundits who confuse fewer (describes a quantitative difference) with less (describes a qualitative difference). Hence, there simply cannot be "fewer milk in that glass than the other," or "there are less people in the park today than there were yesterday." I used to mark down university papers for such errors. And who can solemnly listen to the slow, painful death of the adverb in American usage ("It's a real, bad death."). No, I am not marching in spit-polished step with Strunk and White, but I do opine that people in careers requiring a university education in order to communicate effectively should be held to higher standards of speech and writing than others.

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