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Ahem. As I said, changes are not always bad. I mentioned some that are ignorant and horrid, true; I did not rail against the evolution of a language. Otherwise, three brief responses:

1. "Parameter" allows me to make an important point. The difference between a dictionary that is a reference and a dictionary that is a mere chronicle of use and abuse is substantial. The two serve totally different purposes. To use the latter as if it were the former is a serious mistake.

2. From Burchfield, ed., The New Fowler's, p. 43, 3rd Ed., 1996, Oxford: 'The use of "all right," or inability to see that there is anything wrong with "alright," reveals one's background, upbringing, education, etc., perhaps as much as any word in the language.' The authority then lays out a summary of the history of the abuse. "Alright" is not all right.

3. At its base, this is a debate about the choice between ignorance and knowledge. I insist that it is preferable to know what a word means and to use it properly. Ultimately, language is not possible if all rules are off and the individual makes all the choices. That does not mean that vocabulary should be cast in steel -- it merely means that education is better than an absence thereof, and that the ability to use a language with precision is a benefit. It makes no sense to argue that (a) some changes do occur (a gloriously trivial fact), therefore (b) all are acceptable. Those who hew to correct English are still free to invent and modify and even break the rules (consider Churchill); I also accept that dialects and slang are universal and unassailable. However: lexical anarchy that exalts sloth is a way of degrading, "dumbing down," a language that does not deserve that fate.

Many years ago, a friend who was studying to become an English teacher entertained me with a colorful denunciation of what he called "prescriptive grammarians." I did not point out to him that he was abandoning his intended profession before entering it. Perhaps he wound up like the New York public school teacher who, on television, proudly stated, "I teaches (sic) English." LOL....

Lawrence September 22, 2006, 1:24pm

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