[Wolves] Archive via Google

Aquarius aquarius-lists at kryogenix.org
Tue Jan 20 18:51:17 GMT 2004

Chris Procter spoo'd forth:
> If so then this implies however that grammer nazis can never be correct
> because there is no correct or incorrect usage only the opinion of
> individual users, so there can be no right or wrong in English usage only
> stable and development branches, and forks (e.g. American English).

This is the "prescriptive vs. descriptive" argument, and it's been played
out in pubs and senior common rooms and offices throughout the land. In
essence, you can't work with a language which is entirely descriptive, 
because then every speaker has their own private language and there is no
possibility of communication. There must be areas of commonality between
private languages. To drag this thread kicking and screaming back onto topic,
think of "English" (where that's a subset of whatever you speak) as being
like the Linux Standard Base, or like the work that freedesktop.org are doing;
it defines a set of common standards so that people (or projects, or desktop
environments, or widget sets) can communicate. So grammar Nazis are like the
LSB people; you're being told off for being non-compliant with "standard"
English. You can add all sorts of extra words, and tell people what they mean;
private communities will have private languages. (Think of warez d00ds, or
SMS-speak.) The distinction between the LSB and "standards-compliant" English
is that the standards are, to some extent, undocumented; the OED, for example,
is very clear that they don't prescribe "English" like the Academie Francaise
prescribe French.


Your whole life flashed before your eyes? Cup of tea, cup of tea,
almost got shagged, cup of tea...
	   -- Spike, Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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