Prescriptivists to the left, to the right, volleyed and thundered
Geoffrey Nunberg’s post on “The politics of ‘prescriptivism’ ” at Language Log has taken an interesting turn in the comments. A reader posting as Andrew B., a self-described conservative, opines that linguists appear to be typically liberal academic types, and he suggests that they tend to overlook the prescriptivism of the left, which he identifies with political correctitude.
Responding, Robert Lane Greene remarks, “[O]f public "liberal-minded" language commentators, some of the more prominent are libertarians, hard to place, or at the very least often irritate liberals. Steve Pinker and John McWhorter are in this company. John McIntyre seems to be a very cranky moderate Democrat. ...” (“Spot on,” I responded.)
I think that the issue of political correctitude as prescriptivism from the left is worth some further thought, and I plan to post about it once that further thought has been explored. I may also have something to say about the political alignments of prescriptivism once my copy of Henry Hitchings’s The Language Wars arrives in the mail. Though the Queen’s English society, for one, seems to fit neatly in the Tory-Tory-hallelujah category, I suspect that there is something more here than a typical left-right split.
And I will be giving still further thought to the issue of Words We Do Not Print in preparation for an audio conference on January 12 for Copyediting newsletter, “Charged Language: Dealing With the Unspeakable in Copy.”
If any of you would like to submit remarks for me to take into consideration on these subjects, please comment below.
A brief pause: The Capcara-McIntyre ensemble will be on the road tomorrow for two family gatherings. Kathleen has already baked the two Derby pies to be appropriately distributed, with four more to go tonight—a mince, a pumpkin, a pumpkin cheesecake, and one I forget. I am at work on a cauldron of mashed potatoes before heading off to the paragraph factory. Given these commitments, it is highly unlikely that I will be posting tomorrow.
So enjoy the day as much as you can. I wish you all a wee dram of whatever cheers you, a hearty meal, and pie at the last.