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 people present themselves as the only true defenders of good practice, battling heroically against professional linguists, whose laissez-faire philosophy is responsible for the “sloppy” English that is all around us.
A recent column in a popular UK newspaper makes categorical assertions about what it describes as “acts of violence done to the English language”. Most of these turn out to be perfectly harmless, well-established usages. Yet the writer states with complete confidence that this or that commonly-used expression “is wrong”. With his usual elegance, Stan Carey has shown up these claims up for the nonsense they are. But there is still a public appetite for simplistic “rules”, and no-one ever seems to ask where these rules came from or on whose authority they were made.
This is the subject of a British Council seminar I am giving on 3rd June, and to accompany it we have collected a dozen or so posts on this general theme by members of our blogging team. The posts can be found here, and hopefully (ha!) they will provide plenty of ammunition to respond to the claims of the amateur grammarians.Email this Post