MRP is always amused when anyone puts up a brave front against those who tremble before the coming of the Four Grammarians of the Apostrophocalypse, and this latest salvo from Jan Freeman, “Thou Shalt Not Worry About It: Stern Commandments of Language Use Crumble” is no exception. This time she examines the way in which the Interwebs help to perpetuate grammar and language myths:
More insidiously, the Web is a wonderful place to vent about language that happens to annoy you. Peeveblogging, as Ben Zimmer of Visual Thesaurus has named it, is ideally suited to the medium. Instead of boring your friends with your obsession, you put up a blog devoted to misuses of literally, or apostrophe protection, or business buzzwords. Commenters, too, now have a safe place to show off their peeves. Quote, bemoan, repeat at the next thread, ad infinitum.
Since the 1860s, when Richard Grant White held forth on the evils of stand-point and aggravate, American usage mavens have been spreading the word to an insecure and socially mobile nation: avoid loan as a verb, shun contact, renounce hopefully, and you just might pass for a person of taste and education.
However, she says, “But the Era of Nitpicking won’t last forever, and lately I’ve seen some signs that it might be losing its momentum.” Freeman contends that there are some sane voices in the wilderness (she cites linguistics blogs Language Log and usage maven Grammar Girl as examples).
In the meantime, I sigh every time I encounter didactic lectures about “10 items or less” at the grocery store or commenters bashing on each other’s poor grammar or spelling as a way to win an argument on a message board. Do I see the light at the end of the tunnel? Sure, but as a friend of mine used to say, I’m not so sure yet it’s not a train.