Posts Tagged ‘prescriptivism’

  • “Real Grammar” – accept no substitutes!

    Posted by on September 02, 2014

    Welcome to our new series on “Real Grammar”, which kicks off with a quiz. But this is a grammar quiz with a difference. As regular readers will know, all of us who write for the Macmillan Dictionary Blog have consistently argued that most grammar quizzes (and for that matter, most websites dispensing advice on “correct […]

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  • A critique of ‘criticism’

    Posted by on September 01, 2014

    If I told you a mutual acquaintance of ours had criticised your new hairdo, you might well take offence. But if I said I’d be happy to criticise something you’d written, you might infer a different meaning of the word. The related noun criticism  shows a similar dichotomy. The two senses of these words – […]

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  • Kind’ve a strange phrase

    Posted by on June 09, 2014

    I’ve been on a binge of detective fiction lately, catching up on Michael Connelly’s back catalogue. His L.A.-based crime novels are a good source of police jargon, slang, and abbreviations, but it was a different type of linguistic item that caught my eye this time. In The Concrete Blonde, a news reporter tells the protagonist, […]

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  • Don’t let them bully you!

    Posted by on June 03, 2014

    Readers of our blog will be aware that – despite several decades of serious linguistic research based on the evidence found in corpora – the world is still plagued by self-appointed “experts”, who seem to enjoy lecturing the rest of us on what is wrong with the way we write and speak. Worse still, these […]

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  • How many ‘alternatives’ can there be?

    Posted by on May 26, 2014

    In my post ‘Who’s the boss of English?’, I refuted several prescriptivist rules about English usage asserted by the journalist Simon Heffer. One was his insistence that when it comes to alternatives ‘there can only ever be two’ – that any more than two means they are ‘options’. This curious belief is worth a closer […]

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  • Who’s the boss of English?

    Posted by on May 12, 2014

    Some people worry that English is endangered by misuse – or what they believe to be misuse. They may be unhappy that hopefully has gained an additional meaning, or that literally often isn’t meant literally, or that like has expanded its repertoire: ‘It’s a verb, for crying out loud!’ protested a commenter on my language […]

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  • Grammar and Grammar

    Posted by on March 05, 2014

    Today’s guest post comes from Jonathon Owen, an editor and book designer with a background in linguistics. Jonathon blogs about language at Arrant Pedantry, and his work on grammar and usage appears in Copyediting newsletter and on Visual Thesaurus and Huffington Post. _____________________ A few months ago, in a post titled “12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes about […]

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  • Could you care less?

    Posted by on August 06, 2013

    Over the years, I’ve heard many people say “I could care less” (meaning “I couldn’t care less”) in different contexts, usually informal and American. Not once have I found it confusing. But the phrase is frequently objected to, and therefore worth looking at more closely. The problem is easily discerned: the expression is, on a […]

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  • Stop asking silly questions!

    Posted by on June 18, 2013

    In my last post I mentioned a Telegraph poll which asked innocently: Does grammar matter? Other, equally unanswerable questions are floating around the media, like Is good grammar still important? (why ‘still’?) and Just how bad is bad grammar? I couldn’t say, lacking any appropriate measure of ‘badness’ – it sounds like something from a […]

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  • Colliding with common sense and usage

    Posted by on June 10, 2013

    Some prescriptive usage rules seem so arbitrary and unnecessary as to be made out of whole cloth. One such rule has to do with the word collide, meaning clash or crash into each other, and with related forms like colliding and collision. According to the rule, you can use these words only when both items […]

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