Home to Wordville

April 24, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

One of the things I have been proudest of since starting this blog is late 2005 is that I have never written a post about having trouble writing a post. Sooner or later, every columnist or every fiction writer descends to writing about being unable to write. But last week, on days when I had nothing to say, I said nothing. I recommend the practice.

I do regret, however, not having brought the word to Wordville that Stephen Fried has publicly apologized in The Atlantic for having invented the word fashionista. We all know words that we find odious, usually for what they signify, and fashionista and fashion-forward are words, and concepts, that I wouldn't touch with a bargepole.

That, however, is a little different from the hijacking of perfectly innocuous words for odious purposes. One gets that in the pretentiousness of wine writers savoring a bottle of plonk: "overtones of blackberries, citrus, clay, and motorman's glove."

But here in Wordville we generally try to avoid cataloguing words we happen to dislike, not wanting to encourage mere peeving. We spend a fair amount of time going after ideas that are odious, particularly the shibboleths and superstitions about language. At The Week, James Harbeck has just had some fun exposing once more some hoary superstitions about grammar and usage by displaying famous sentences that violate the supposed rules. Don't miss the obtuse comments on the article.

While we are disparaging ill-informed attitudes, Stan Carey at Sentence First, citing a TED talk by John McWhorter, helps dispose of Those Damn Kids With Their Texting Are Destroying English. A crucial passage: "Increasing evidence is that being bilingual is cognitively beneficial. That’s also true of being bidialectal, and it’s certainly true of being bidialectal in terms of your writing. And so texting actually is evidence of a balancing act that young people are using today – not consciously, of course, but it’s an expansion of their linguistic repertoire." 

It's a good day whenever we add something to our linguistic repertoire.

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