WHERE PRESCRIPTIVISM LEADS.

According to a Guardian article by Giles Tremlett, Gabriel García Márquez has been barred from the International Congress of the Spanish Language for “making trouble” by saying things like “Spelling, that terror visited on human beings from the cradle onwards, should be pensioned off.” Magdalena Faillace, Argentina’s secretary of state for culture, who is hosting the meeting, “told Spain’s El Pais newspaper that it was the academies of language which had insisted the Colombian Nobel winner be banned”; the Real Academia denies responsibility. Whatever the details, the banning of a great author shows what happens when you allow prescriptivists actual power over events. Let them write their querulous plaints about how everything is going to hell in a handbasket if they must, but languages are (as always) in the hands of those who use them, and prosper best when they benefit from the attentions of writers who use them particularly well, by which I do not mean academicians. (Link via wood s lot.)
Update. The latest story at El Pais indicates that the Argentine government has invited García Márquez after all; it’s unclear whether he’ll accept.


And yes, I realize the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot and it doesn’t matter a damn whether Gabo is at the stupid Congress or not, but it gives you an idea of what might happen if Academies had actual power.

Comments

  1. Perhaps if the anti-prescriptivists take up the gun the issue will get the attention it deserves. Non-violence has not worked.

  2. Will no one rid me of these meddlesome prescriptivists?

  3. Does this mean that you agree with tearing down the orthography system?

  4. It means I think one should be able to express divergent opinions on orthography, or any other linguistic phenomenon, without being treated as a pariah. I happen to like conservative, irrational spelling systems, but I certainly recognize the merits of opposing views.

  5. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    Hmph. And I always thought the expression was “going to hell in a handbucket”. What does the army of puling prescriptivists make of that (aside from the obvious)?

  6. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    Hmph. And I always thought the expression was “going to hell in a handbucket”. What does the army of puling prescriptivists make of that (aside from the obvious)?

  7. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    Hmph. And I always thought the expression was “going to hell in a handbucket”. What does the army of puling prescriptivists make of that (aside from the obvious)?

  8. Going Dotty in Kansas says:

    my apologies for the idiotic repetition. mercury is going retrograde on me this week, in every conceivable way.

  9. I never heard the “handbucket” expression; anybody else know it?

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