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The dictionary-maker has to record what people say, not what he thinks they can politely say
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The main impact of Afro-American dialect on education has not been its structural differences from standard English, nor its relative intrinsic usefulness as a medium of thought, but its function as a low-status stigma and its association with a rejected culture. The attitudes of teachers toward this dialect and of dialect speakers toward the teachers’ language have affected the social relationships of children with the schools in such a way as to make education of many children almost impossible. Black children of rural southern background have entered the urban schools to find that nearly everything they said was branded as ‘wrong’. In order to be ‘right’ they had to adopt forms that seemed alien even when they were able to learn how to use them. Their own spontaneous products were punished and treated as worthless, including the only language they knew really well.
Jane Torrey, ‘Illiteracy in the ghetto’, Harvard Educational Review, 40(2), May 1970; republished in Tinker, Tailor: The Myth of Cultural Deprivation (1973), edited by Nell Keddie.
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On my blog today: a review of Steven Poole’s new book, Who Touched Base in My Thought Shower? and the “spirit-sapping indignities” of key learnings, synergistic deliverables, and thought leaders who open their kimonos…
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Clarity depends on our making judicious use of all of a language’s resources. Words, grammar, rhythm, discourse, and stylistic level all play their part. It is never possible to identify a single dimension or principle of usage, or a cluster of ‘rules’, and say that these are obligatory features of clarity of expression. When people try to do this, they invariably end up … breaking the very principles they have themselves promulgated.
David Crystal, The Fight for English
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Quotative like can set up a whole miniature drama, with visual content contributing to a richer vocabulary than words alone could license.
Sentence first: “And I’m like, Quotative ‘like’ isn’t just for quoting”
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Sentence first: The dramatic grammatic evolution of LOL; or, how LOL has become grammaticalised into a pragmatic particle.
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[T]he work of punctuation is mainly to show, or hint at, the grammatical relation between words, phrases, clauses, and sentences; but it must not be forgotten that stops also serve to regulate pace, to throw emphasis on particular words and give them significance, and to indicate tone. These effects are subordinate, and must not be allowed to conflict with the main object; but as the grammatical relation may often be shown in more than one way, that way can be chosen which serves another purpose best.
H.W. and F.G. Fowler, The King’s English
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English is replete with styles, dialects and sublanguages that are fully context-appropriate, and grammatical in their own right. They’re not what you’d use in a business letter or ceremonial speech, but why would they be? Different domains of expression have their own norms: it’s presumptuous and preposterous to impose one set on all others.
Songwriters draw on genre conventions and their own dialects, both of which they may play with and subvert. Insisting on formal standard English all the time is like prescribing formal attire 24/7. It’s like saying E. E. Cummings ought to fix his formatting, or demanding that jazz obey 2/4 time. No wonder peevers can’t get no satisfaction.