Grammar Mavens Are “Guilty of Turning Superstitions into Rules”

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(p. C29) It’s getting harder to make a living as an editor of the printed word, what with newspapers and other publications cutting staff. And it will be harder still now that Jack Lynch has published “The Lexicographer’s Dilemma,” an entertaining tour of the English language in which he shows that many of the rules that editors and other grammatical zealots wave about like cudgels are arbitrary and destined to be swept aside as words and usage evolve.
. . .
“Too often,” he writes, “the mavens and pundits are talking through their hats. They’re guilty of turning superstitions into rules, and often their proclamations are nothing more than prejudice representing itself as principle.”
And, as he notes in his final chapter, the grammatical doomsayers had better find themselves some chill pills fast, because the crimes-against-the-language rate is going to skyrocket here in the electronic age. There is already much whining about the goofy truncated vocabulary of e-mail and text messaging (a phenomenon Mr. Lynch sees as good news, not bad; to mangle the rules of grammar, you first have to know the rules). And the Internet means that English is increasingly a global language.

For the full review, see:
JANET MASLIN. “Books of The Times; This Is English, Rules Are Optional.” The New York Times (Mon., May 4, 2009): C4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article is dated May 3, 2009.)

The book being reviewed, is:
Lynch, Jack W. The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of ‘Proper’ English, from Shakespeare to South Park. New York: Walker & Company, 2009.

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