The War Of The Words

If you’re a lingo lover and enjoy conversations about how words evolve and spats over usage, here’s a good article I just found in The Guardian, by David Shariatmadari.  I’d take issue with the claim that these are the 19 Greatest Spats, but there’s some good background and interesting discussion.  Some of the comments are good, too… “The frequent use of Z in place of S is entirely due to the bloody Americans who owe us billions for using our language without agreement. Bloody Americans.”

Language wars: the 19 greatest linguistic spats of all time

by David Shariatmadari

Words are ever evolving – but not without controversy. From creative applications of an apostrophe to the overuse of literally, what makes you rage?

What is it about language that gets people so hot under the collar? That drives them to spend hours arguing with strangers on the internet, to go around correcting misspelt signs in the dead of night, or even to threaten acts of violence? The languages we speak are central to our sense of self, so it is not surprising that their finer points can become a battleground. Passionate feelings about what’s right and wrong extend from the use of “disinterested” to what gay people are allowed to call themselves. Here are some of the most memorable rows, spats and controversies.

Apostrophe catastrophe

A so-called “grammar vigilante” has been correcting shop fronts in Bristol, England, for more than a decade. His pet peeve is the confusion of plain old plurals with possessives, which in English are usually marked by an apostrophe followed by an S. Confronted with a sign advertising “Amy’s Nail’s”, he will obliterate the second apostrophe with a sticker. Addressing the potentially illegal nature of his mission in a BBC report, he said: “It’s more of a crime that the apostrophe is wrong in the first place”. Linguist Rob Drummond disagrees: “Fetishising the apostrophe as if its rules are set in stone,” he writes, “and then fostering an environment in which it is acceptable to take pleasure in uncovering other people’s linguistic insecurities is not OK.”

Read more…

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