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Originally Posted By: Rhubarb Commando
I really do dislike the idea that our "language is changing fo the worse."

Language changes. Sometimes it brings in "dross": more often it brings in "gold."

We have to live with it, innit?


I can't believe that Geoff Nunberg was serious when he said the language was changing for the worse. It can only have been irony.

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Jackie Offline OP
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Okay, I'll run the risk of copyright violation (shh, don't tell anybody) and try and put enough direct quotes in for you to get a better idea of what he said. Or, you could just look in the book on pp. 154-6.
At any time in the past four hundred years you could claim that the language was falling apart...

And to tell the truth, I have the same impression myself. I look around me and the signs seem unmistakable that the language is in a bad way. ...

But are things really worse than they used to be? Maybe it's just that I'm getting old and cranky. The fact is, complaining about English usage has always been an old man's game. ...

It would be a hard point to prove one way or the other.
By context, I infer that by "it" in this sentence he means language worsening, not whether complaining is an old man's game. Then he goes into talking about how many more people are writing these days and how more widespread their writing is than used to be possible.
The number of people who sit down at a keyboard every day has probably increased tenfold over the past few years--quite a few of them people whose writing used to be seen only on their refrigerator doors. They're people who were never able spell very well, but over the telephone you couldn't tell. HTH. And, I admit to creating a subject topic line that I hoped had a "hook".

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From the quote Jackie gives, I get the impression that Nunberg is setting up the argument in order to disprove it. On the other hand he seems to have a prescriptivist streak; he wrote this:
Quote:
It may be that my children will use gift and impact as verbs without the slightest compunction (just as I use contact, wondering that anyone ever bothered to object to it). But I can't overcome the feeling that it is wrong for me to use them in that way and that people of my generation who say "We decided to gift them with a desk set" are in some sense guilty of a moral lapse, whether because they are ignorant or because they are weak. In the face of that conviction, it really doesn't matter to me whether to gift will eventually prevail, carried on the historical tide. Our glory, Silone said, lies in not having to submit to history.

Last edited by goofy; 11/19/11 05:04 PM.
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