Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Common Errors in English

A new friend directed me to this site, to share a compendious resource in our shared campaign not so much to rid the world of poor English (that ship has sailed, folks, and growing up means learning not to jump off the dock in vain pursuit) but to bask in the minority status of us prescriptive grammarians who still take a great deal of pride in writing and speaking with clarity and the concomitant respect for the irregular elegance of English in its most eloquent incarnations. The guy's a bit of a wanker, what with all his rules and kvetching about the inconvenience of extensive publicity, but the page of errors is, just the same, a pleasant harbor in an endless storm of English in the least common denominator form preferred by talking heads, politicians, and entirely too many of the people around us, even in the most learned of fields.

UPDATE: In the above, I have changed "we prescriptive grammarians" to "us prescriptive grammarians" after a persuasive email exchange with thoughtful reader, Stewart Pollock. I'm taking on faith his observation that my original formulation was ungrammatical, because I don't actually know very much about the formal rules of grammar. To the extent I write grammatically, it's attributable to practice and intuition, as I explained to Stewart. The only disadvantage to this approach is that I can't really argue in my own defense when things like this arise. But then I'm still doing all right, so I lack the motivation to actually learn the terminology and the reasons that lie at the heart of correct grammar. Which of course makes plain that I can't really be a "prescriptive grammarian," since my prescriptions are couched in the name of preference and intuition, even when these phenomena float me toward the correct answer. I guess that just makes me a writing snob. So be it. Anyway, thanks Stewart, for your kind words and your informative criticism.


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