Re: The English Wars

The New Yorker:

Acocella misunderstood my essay on usage in the American Heritage Dictionary. It never declares that “there are no rules” but, rather, begins from the opposite premise: “What kind of fact are you looking up when you look up a word in the dictionary? A fact it certainly is. It is not just a matter of opinion that there is no such word as misunderestimated, that the citizens of modern Greece are Greeks and not Grecians, and that divisive policies Balkanize rather than vulcanize society.”

My goal was to use the answer to this question to distinguish bogus rules of usage from defensible ones. One cause of bogus rules is a phenomenon called false consensus, in which, say, no expert believes that split infinitives are ungrammatical, but everyone mistakenly thinks that everyone else believes they are.

Read the whole story: The New Yorker

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