John McIntyre

Another voice for sanity

If you read about language, grammar, and usage, you're as likely to come across rubbish and codswallop as anything else.
Thus there is joy at the arrival of a new voice of sense and informed judgment. Stan Carey of Sentence First heralded the arrival last week of Caxton, a new blog on language.
Today's post at Caxton includes a reminder about the rules of language that rule-mongers would do well to keep in mind. And it is not novel information, coming from the pen of John Colet, humanist of the English Renaissance and dean of St. Paul's (d. 1519):
"¿¿In the beginning men spake not Latin because such rules were made, but contrariwise, because men spake Latin the rules were made. That is to say, Latin speech was before the rules, and not the rules before the Latin speech."
The author, Barrie England, distinguishes grammar and rules from style, comparing style in language to fashion in dress in a manner that you may have seen at this site as well:
"Style is quite a different matter, one not of fact, but of opinion. Some may say that they referring to a singular antecedent is awkward or ugly or illogical or whatever you like. They may conclude that for those reasons its use makes an utterance ineffective. Others may take an opposite view. What neither can do say is that it is ungrammatical, when there is so much evidence for its use in the prose of reputable writers over the centuries.
"It’s like looking at someone’s shirt or wallpaper. You may not like the colour of the shirt or the pattern of the wallpaper, and you’re quite entitled not to like them. But you can’t deny that what you’re looking is a shirt or wallpaper."