I do love a good language rant, as long as it’s the sensible kind and not the usual prescriptivist lament, and fev of the copy-editing blog headsuptheblog (active since April) has a dandy one, called “Is that a mote in your eye, or are you just glad to see me?”:

OK, we wouldn’t all be gathered ’round this little electric campfire if we didn’t think whingeing about language was fun, right? A downside, as some of you might have noticed already, is that those who would complain about language should do it really, really carefully, lest they be held up as examples for the rest of us.
Hence today’s food for thought, a column from one of the two leading local daily papers. The problem with it is not necessarily that it’s prescriptivist. We all have a little prescriptivist in us (some of us have a lot). Rather, it’s the array of side dishes – grammatical glitches, inability to distinguish fundamentals, dialect chauvinism, BoCoMo ethnocentrism, hyperformal usage and annoying J-school-isms – served up along with the implausible, and essentially untenable, thesis.

Details are gone into, and a conclusion is drawn:

So, to summarize: Speech isn’t writing. Usage isn’t syntax. Complaining about grammar isn’t the same thing as understanding it. Every dialect is its own glass house. Read a lot. English is no danger of being “destroyed” (it got run over by French 900 years ago and survived, 5-year-olds can apparently cop to its syntax pretty fast, and it’s about to take over the world). People who complain about the coming death of English aren’t usually talking about language; they’re talking about something else (on the order of “And your music, it’s just noise“).

And he calls William Safire a “linguistic sin.” Give ’em hell, fev!


  1. I was just surfing the web when I found this page from Spiegel claiming that ‘if you can understand German, we, of course, recommend our own colleague Bastian Sick’s column. Sick’s wit leaves Safire in a trail of dust.’
    Sick can be found at:

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