Add another peever to the list
I can’t resist the rich target that @wordtofiction presented: a classic example of captious peeving, "Le Mot Juste," at firstthings.com.
The author, David Bentley Hart, sends an unmistakable signal of what is to come with an early allusion to Rome and the Visigoths. The peevers all think they are embattled Civilization surrounded by Rude Hordes, and Rome always creeps into the text at some point.
Of course, a much more blatant signal was delivered in the first sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is only a short road that leads from grammatical laxity to cannibalism.” No, it is a silly overstatement combined with a feeble imitation of Jane Austen.
So we have literary pretension combined with cliche and linguistic peevery. Let’s look at what we can light-heartedly call the substance of the article. He insists that his catalogue of complaints is “not really the dilettante’s catalogue of petty annoyances it might at first appear to be.” Well, we’ll see.
Mr. Hart deplores blurring the distinction between imply and infer. So do I, but I doubt that this frequent solecism will lead to my liver being consumed with a side of fava beans and a rough Chianti.
He disparages people who pronounce idyll like idol. But the American Heritage Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary, and Garner’s Modern American Usage all indicate that the word is pronounced with a long i. If he is suggesting that “iddle” is preferable, he is mistaken.
Of course, those quisling lexicographers are not to be relied on, as we find out when he insists that any dictionary that records a usage of which he does not approve is “a scented and brilliantined degenerate in a glossy lavender lounge suit who intends to teach your children criminal ways while you are away at the grocery store.”
I’ll grant you that Mr. Hart operates with a good deal more verve than the pathetically querulous Queen’s English Society, but he is still a fellow-traveler of that intellectually and linguistically bankrupt assemblage of poseurs.