SpecGram Vol CXLIX, No 2 Contents Letters to the Editor

Describe This!

A letter from the Managing Editor

Perhaps the stress of managing and publishing SpecGram has finally gotten to me, or maybe I've just seen too many poorly written manuscripts describing half-baked ideas lately.1 Whatever the cause, I have, of late, felt a strangely compelling need to abandon my Descriptivist Idealism in favor of Prescriptivist Tyranny.

I've never been a big fan of rules that derive their legitimacy from the notion that "That's how it has always been."2 And as far as I'm concerned, erudite appeals to etymologically correct grammatical etiquette fall into that category. So, in no uncertain terms, let me say that graffiti and data are mass nouns in English--graffito and datum are not part of the language--and anyone who insists otherwise needs to come to terms with reality.

Not to pick solely on those who are prone to erudite appeals to etymologically correct grammatical etiquette, let me strongly encourage anyone who can't help but say nukyular or simyular to seek professional help. You can be cured.

I can't decide whether rhyming processes with cheese falls into the same category as nukyular or plural data, but it is equally annoying. Cease and desist!

Between the two extremes of bad reasons for poor choices in grammaticality falls a group of people who have noticed the noun/verb stress dichotomy exemplified by convict the noun and convict the verb, but haven't quite figured out what to do with it. I believe many of them have noticed the stress shift, and have interpreted the difference as a mark of a higher register. In their desire to speak that register, they fail to do adequate research into this complex topic, and their idiosynratic idiolects come to conflict with the real (if squishy) rules of English!

Then there are the unduly free spirits who find everything productive, whether it should be or not. They discuss the nounhood and verbhood of words, and the theoremhood of conjectures--it brings me to a state of vomithood. Of course, the scandalgate du jour leaves them emoting all over the place, sometimes leaving stains on the new carpet.

Let me take a few more potshots just for grins: impact is not a verb; and root does not rhyme with put!

As I said before, I don't entirely know what has come over me, but it feels good to blurt out my dirty little prescriptivist secret. (And even better to know that the rest of the SpecGram editors will take note, or find themselves reduced to working as hacks for a rag like Language.) Despite my lifelong belief in Descriptivist Idealism, I can't shake the feeling that certain usages and turns of phrase do violence to my native tongue, and cannot be tolerated. I'm so glad that the horror that was "post-positive not!" has fallen out of favor--but don't get me started on bling-bling.

With a heavy heart, I must admit that a benevolent Prescriptivist Dictatorship may be the only cure. Humbly, I nominate the editorial board of SpecGram to lead the way as the first embodiment of a Committee for Linguistic Common Sense in English.

1 SpecGram editorial policy dictates that we cannot publish manuscripts unless they are at least mediocrely written, and the ideas they describe are at least three-quarters-baked. Such are the constraints of Tradition.

2 Especially since I read that proponents of the Official English movement in the US are reported to have made statements to the effect of, "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me!"

Letters to the Editor
SpecGram Vol CXLIX, No 2 Contents