6 votes

Are you a purist or evolutionist? What your language 'pet peeve' reveals about you

20 comments

  1. [5]
    alyaza Link
    of all the hard-to-stand-by linguistic views, precriptivism is probably the hardest from really every standpoint (maybe other than the strong interpretation of the sapir-whorf hypothesis). lots of...

    of all the hard-to-stand-by linguistic views, precriptivism is probably the hardest from really every standpoint (maybe other than the strong interpretation of the sapir-whorf hypothesis). lots of people like to fancy themselves as linguists even without being formally trained as such because they took an english class and think that because they can ratify off the "rules" of english or whatever means they know what they're talking about, but almost every linguist worth your salt would tell you that the inflexible linguistic "rules" of english for example only matter if people make something of them (and even then, that they're not worth much). someone using "less people" instead of "fewer people" for example may violate the sanctity of some english "rule", but everybody knows exactly what less people means and that it's equivalent to fewer people. a black person might pronounce "ask" like "aks" which is "wrong" insofar as it's not the standard pronunciation for most english speakers (although it reflects the old english verb axian just as much as the standard pronunciation), but we all know exactly what they mean when they pronounce it that way. both are examples of linguistic evolution, and there are plenty of other evolutions taking place right now both in the formation of new words and the modification of old ones to fit other meanings--none of which you can really accept (at least without being hypocritical or contradictory) if you take a genuinely prescriptivist line of thinking regarding language.

    10 votes
    1. ThatFanficGuy Link Parent
      Way to keep an open mind. I ain't gonna shit you. I've been to both sides of this conversation. I've written this to describe my most current stance, but I've also held a more prescriptivist view...

      of all the hard-to-stand-by linguistic views, precriptivism is probably the hardest from really every standpoint

      Way to keep an open mind.

      I ain't gonna shit you. I've been to both sides of this conversation. I've written this to describe my most current stance, but I've also held a more prescriptivist view when I was younger. For me, it went like this:

      I often find myself swinging mentally between a more accepting attitude and something more restrictive. For me, neither is more true. I'm generally accepting, curious, and embracing change; sometimes, in some things, I like to keep things steady and orderly.

      Those swings, for me, correspond with the periods of increased anxiety, which usually comes from lacking certainty about the basic things. It's a defensive reaction to the general chaos of life, though I'm more sensitive to it. That said, I generally enjoy order, in a broad, ideal sense. I can't hold to a schedule, but my files are neatly organized in separate folders, in a single meta-folder where all the important things reside. I only have a minimal routine about my days, but in my cupboards and drawers and the general space of my living, I have places for every type of thing, and I feel wronged whenever someone moves or misplaces those things.

      (I'm also an artist and a designer – that is, a naturally-creative person seeking experimentation and improvement. Make of that what you will.)

      To me, prescriptivism – not the banal, annoying everyday behavior the intellectually-prudish engage in, but the higher-level attitude towards language – is about keeping such an order. It's about keeping record of the contemporary image of the language. It's about trying to preserve it in its ideal state – which isn't always the way we currently speak it.

      The prescriptivist mindset is, by its very nature, narrow and focused; you're not thinking about what everyone else might consider the same language: you're thinking about it from the perspective of what makes most sense to you. Whether such an order-imposing attitude is justified should be judged on a case-by-case basis – and even then, you're going to find yourself staring at two opposite perspectives on damn near any given aspect.

      It isn't an evil mindset: merely authoritarian. Imposing an authoritative order isn't always a bad thing, though with things like language – one of those tribal things, things that define us, which, therefore, we must defend with strength and vigor – it can quickly descend into something less than orderly or beneficial. Generally, keeping some measure of order in a system is constructive; it's when order gets too restrictive or is imposed with the disconnect between the authors and the speakers that you make things worse.

      Notice how we teach children their native language at school along the same lines; we have grammar books that the children study, and they get punished if they make mistakes, much like with any other subject, many of which are far more based in the reality of things, rather than in our conceptualization of it. This orderly manner of teaching is prescriptivist, because we give children the only right way to operate the language – or, at least, impose a restrictive set of rules upon it. It's not like Newspeak, where speech is actively restricted to a defined, short list of words and, therefore, ideas, but it is in striving for order.

      Prescriptivism is not a thing in itself: it's a reaction to a need for stability we all have, and some have it stronger than others. Opposing it is akin to trying to cure the cold by reducing your temperature: it's fighting the symptoms, not the cause. Except in this case, the cause is human nature, and fighting that is... well, good luck.

      6 votes
    2. [3]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      This isn't restricted to black people. Here in Australia, the "aks" pronunciation is not uncommon among certain demographics - and they're usually white.

      a black person might pronounce "ask" like "aks"

      This isn't restricted to black people. Here in Australia, the "aks" pronunciation is not uncommon among certain demographics - and they're usually white.

      4 votes
      1. [2]
        alyaza Link Parent
        yeah. white americans have also to some extent adopted this pronunciation and it's growing similar to how "nucular" has become a not-infrequent alternative pronunciation for nuclear. it's still...

        yeah. white americans have also to some extent adopted this pronunciation and it's growing similar to how "nucular" has become a not-infrequent alternative pronunciation for nuclear. it's still significantly more frequent among black people, though.

        1 vote
        1. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          ... in the USA. Not in Australia.

          it's still significantly more frequent among black people, though.

          ... in the USA. Not in Australia.

          2 votes
  2. [7]
    babypuncher Link
    I don't understand the author's hangup about "110%". He claims such a statement is mathematically impossible, but that is not true. Ratios represented as percentage points can exceed the original...

    I don't understand the author's hangup about "110%". He claims such a statement is mathematically impossible, but that is not true. Ratios represented as percentage points can exceed the original value. If a population of 100 people grows to 210 over the course of a year, then that population grew by 110%.

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      happimess Link Parent
      "110%" Is a meaningful quantity, but it's impossible for someone to give more than 100% of what they have. If I manage to squeeze out a little extra performance, then I'm not giving 110%, rather...

      "110%" Is a meaningful quantity, but it's impossible for someone to give more than 100% of what they have. If I manage to squeeze out a little extra performance, then I'm not giving 110%, rather our estimation of my capacity was miscalibrated to begin with.

      Note: I'm all for colorful exaggeration. I just want to point out that the criticism makes mathematical sense.

      3 votes
      1. papasquat Link Parent
        Eh not really. Mechanical parts are usually rated with a maximum duty cycle, power, or level of stress. If my engine redlines at 10k RPM, and I peg it to that redline, it can be said that my...

        Eh not really. Mechanical parts are usually rated with a maximum duty cycle, power, or level of stress. If my engine redlines at 10k RPM, and I peg it to that redline, it can be said that my engine is operating at 100% power. If I then take off my governor and go up to 11k as the thing starts self destructing, it can be said to be operating at 110%, because I'm exceeding the rated speed of the engine. The same analogy applies to people. 110% implies that you're giving so much effort that you're throwing care to the wind and exceeding your normal amount of effort.

        Think Scotty when he says "She cannae take much more of this, Captain!"

        4 votes
      2. babypuncher (edited ) Link Parent
        But someone can give 110% of what was their normally established maximum output, which I think is the intended implication of this idiom. Hypothetically, if we establish 40 hours of work per week...

        But someone can give 110% of what was their normally established maximum output, which I think is the intended implication of this idiom.

        Hypothetically, if we establish 40 hours of work per week as maximum capacity, 100%. Then if an individual puts in an extra 4 hours per week they are achieving 110% of normal productivity. When we say someone "gave it 110%" we are saying they went above and beyond what is normally expected of them (100%).

        3 votes
      3. [3]
        NaraVara Link Parent
        That's only if you assume we're talking about the percentage as a proportion of theoretical maximum capacity. You could interpret 110% to be as a percentage of accepted standard capacity so you...

        "110%" Is a meaningful quantity, but it's impossible for someone to give more than 100% of what they have. If I manage to squeeze out a little extra performance, then I'm not giving 110%, rather our estimation of my capacity was miscalibrated to begin with.

        That's only if you assume we're talking about the percentage as a proportion of theoretical maximum capacity. You could interpret 110% to be as a percentage of accepted standard capacity so you could give a 110% and work 44 hours in a standard 40 hour work week.

        Alternatively, you could interpret it as a percentage of "sustainable" effort/capacity. This would be analogous to a Christmas tree farm. If you know X trees will reach their maturity each year and you cut down 110% of X, you're going 10% over your replacement rate of mature trees.

        In both these cases it's an issue of getting hung up on the precise semantics of a statement rather than trying to understand the idea being communicated by the statement.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          happimess Link Parent
          I absolutely agree that it is a silly thing to get worked up over. All the same, I think it's more reasonable to interpret the phrase as meaning "he's giving 110% of what he's got" than "he's...

          In both these cases it's an issue of getting hung up on the precise semantics of a statement rather than trying to understand the idea being communicated by the statement.

          I absolutely agree that it is a silly thing to get worked up over.

          All the same, I think it's more reasonable to interpret the phrase as meaning "he's giving 110% of what he's got" than "he's giving 110% of accepted league-wide standard capacity."

          1 vote
          1. NaraVara Link Parent
            Why would it make more sense to interpret a phrase in a way that makes no sense than to interpret it in a way that does, and is also in line with what the idea the person is usually trying to convey?

            Why would it make more sense to interpret a phrase in a way that makes no sense than to interpret it in a way that does, and is also in line with what the idea the person is usually trying to convey?

            2 votes
  3. [2]
    bub Link
    Language "evolutionism" is a solid argument, or at least it would be if it were ever brought up for any reason other than to excuse your bad grammar when you're called out on the internet. Yes,...

    Language "evolutionism" is a solid argument, or at least it would be if it were ever brought up for any reason other than to excuse your bad grammar when you're called out on the internet.

    Yes, language evolves. But when you don't want to admit to making a mistake, the evolution of language does not make your mistake "just as correct."

    1 vote
    1. alyaza Link Parent
      i have no idea what your experience is, but this is not mine. normally when it gets brought up in my experience, one of two things is happening: (1) people are bitching about how english "rules"...

      Language "evolutionism" is a solid argument, or at least it would be if it were ever brought up for any reason other than to excuse your bad grammar when you're called out on the internet.

      i have no idea what your experience is, but this is not mine. normally when it gets brought up in my experience, one of two things is happening: (1) people are bitching about how english "rules" aren't adhered to by the general population and how it makes them dumb and wrong when almost all of those "rules" are inventions of the 18th and 19th century writers and nowhere near hard or fast rules; or (2) when people bitch about how language is becoming so POLITICALLY CORRECT and "they" cannot be validly used to refer to singular people (it can be, is, and has been since before modern english was codified) or "latinx" can't be a word (it is, it's recognized by dictionaries, people use it a fair amount), or people are complaining about how AAVE is wrong because it uses nonstandard verb forms (which it actually uses to encode more information than standard english does!) all of which are examples of people being idiots and acting like because they took an english class they know all there is to know about language.

      personally, i also have no idea how you can call into question something that is the overwhelming consensus of the linguistic community just because people on the internet use descriptivism in ways you don't appreciate.

      Yes, language evolves. But when you don't want to admit to making a mistake, the evolution of language does not make your mistake "just as correct."

      "mistakes" of this sort are a large part of how language does evolve, though, and often they do become correct. for example, with the word island, the "s" has no etymological basis and was inserted by accident:

      The insertion of s—a 16th century spelling modification—is due to a change in spelling to the unrelated term isle, which previously lacked s (cf. Middle English ile, yle). The re-addition was mistakingly carried over to include iland as well. Related also to German Aue (“water-meadow”), Latin aqua (“water”).

      similarly, "ye" is the product of a hacky spelling of þe that eventually became standardized when þ (and ẏ, which was also used to distinguish) was lost in english spelling:

      From Middle English þe. The letter y was sometimes used for þ (“thorn”), a letter which corresponds to modern th because þ did not exist in the first press typographies, so was replaced using either "th", which replaced it, or "y", which resembled it in Late Medieval and Early Modern Blackletter. Etymological y was for a time distinguished by a dot, ẏ, but the letters were conflated when that was dropped.

      weird shit happens with language all the time like that. taking the stance that mistakes of that nature cannot be correct or ever develop into their own thing is pretty reductivist considering that there are all sorts of frankly bizarre reforms, events, and word-forms involved with english spelling that really do not make sense in a modern context but which survived specifically because they developed into their own things contrary to what you'd expect to happen.

      1 vote
  4. [6]
    DonQuixote Link
    I simply can't stand it when I read the words "Purist" and "Revolutionist." Oh, and that other overused phrase, "Pet Peeve". /s

    I simply can't stand it when I read the words "Purist" and "Revolutionist." Oh, and that other overused phrase, "Pet Peeve". /s

    1. [5]
      masochist Link Parent
      Can we not do the /s thing here, please? This is Tildes, we're supposed to be better than that. yes, yes, irony, I know.

      Can we not do the /s thing here, please? This is Tildes, we're supposed to be better than that.

      yes, yes, irony, I know.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        DonQuixote Link Parent
        In all seriousness, there are some here who do not always understand the sarcasm. Most linguistic aficionados I've read of are completely fine with sarcasm, among them William Safire, one of my...

        In all seriousness, there are some here who do not always understand the sarcasm. Most linguistic aficionados I've read of are completely fine with sarcasm, among them William Safire, one of my classic favorites. So I think it's appropriate here.

        1. [3]
          Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
          Noone said not to do sarcasm at all. The request was not to add the "/s" tag to sarcasm. If you must do sarcasm, do it well enough that you don't need to tag it. Sarcasm that needs tagging as...

          Noone said not to do sarcasm at all. The request was not to add the "/s" tag to sarcasm. If you must do sarcasm, do it well enough that you don't need to tag it. Sarcasm that needs tagging as sarcasm is badly written sarcasm.

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. [2]
              masochist Link Parent
              I would find that an egregious insult to my intelligence. Please no.

              I would find that an egregious insult to my intelligence. Please no.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                Comment deleted by author
                Link Parent
                1. alyaza Link Parent
                  i'm curious: why would it be required? i get that sarcasm doesn't translate well to the internet but i'm not seeing why that would necessitate the implementation of a fairly clunky idea just...

                  but the popup would be required for something like this,

                  i'm curious: why would it be required? i get that sarcasm doesn't translate well to the internet but i'm not seeing why that would necessitate the implementation of a fairly clunky idea just because some people aren't able to detect it.

                  2 votes