Origins of the Specious

The title of this post is the title of a book (that I have just ordered from Amazon), one of the authors of which I heard interviewed on NPR on my way back home today.

The authors’ website has a page on grammar myths that begins thusly and that is worth taking a look at:

The Living Dead

The house of grammar has many rooms, and some of them are haunted. Despite the best efforts of grammatical exorcists, the ghosts of dead rules and the spirits of imaginary taboos are still rattling and thumping about the old place.

It’s no longer considered a crime to split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, for example, but the specters of worn-out rules have a way of coming back to haunt us. In the interest of laying a few to rest, let’s dedicate to each a tombstone, complete with burial service. May they rest in peace

According to the authors, many of those complicated rules of “proper” grammar that I expended so much energy on learning and then teaching my 8th grade classes back in the 70s are no longer worth worrying about.

Well, “makes me no nevermind,” as someone somewhere used to say. I’ve always known that language evolves. But is appears to be evolving faster than I.

I can’t wait to read the book.

Patricia O’Conner, one of the authors, appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. Click here on the third Wednesday of each month to hear Pat live. She appears on the Leonard Lopate Show around 1:20 P.M. Eastern time. If you miss a program, click here to listen to a recorded broadcast..

1 thought on “Origins of the Specious

  1. yes, indeedy, i does want to see this book.
    for years, when i was at the college, we used to compile all sorts of “new grammar.”
    when i came to Baltimore, I taught at the 3rd oldest high school in the U.S. —
    Baltimore City College. We had 36 grammar rules that all students had to learn by heart.
    i.e., use the possessive case before or gerund. or, the subject of an infinitive is in
    the nominative case before the verb to be.
    hard to get rid of indelible knowledge. rote is best; rote works.
    BUT — the more dynamic a society: the simpler the language. ya know??
    too early in the morning and i’m not operating on my usual number of cylinders.

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