Sometimes people are just wrong
I commend to your attention Arnold Zwicky’s post on Language Log, “Prejudices, egocentrism, impositions and intransigence.” It is as neat and compact a summary of the different categories of peevishness and misguided certainty about language as I have seen.
Many of the complaints that come in from readers of The Sun point out embarrassing lapses in our print and electronic editions, but many also fall into the categories that Professor Zwicky describes. And it is typically the people who are wrong who are most stubborn and intemperate, most resistant to explanation.
Particularly tedious are the people who imagine that English is in decline and that “correct” English needs some kind of official “protection” from the barbarians who are destroying it. This belief, which has cropped up regularly for at least the past five centuries, displays a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the language and its operation.
The only way we are going to get to an intelligent discussion of grammar and usage — particularly in the area of concern for this blog, the ways that standard American English can be written most effectively — is to become willing to examine our own preconceptions and prejudices, with an eye to adjusting them to the realities of the language.
If, in the process, we could avoid tirades and denunciations, that, too, would be progress.
Professor Zwicky has closed the comments on his post, but you can feel free to respond here.