A fundamental language debate heats up: Where do you fall?

It’s prescriptivists vs. descriptivists in a battle that could determine the future of English.

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It started with a recent New Yorker essay by writer Joan Acocella, who spent a few thousand words taking down descriptivists. Fellow New Yorker writer Ryan Bloom followed that with a blog post about how we should stick to prescriptivism because that’s how they talk in the corridors of power.

Language wizards such as Nancy Friedman and Ben Zimmer, among others, were having none of it. Most of Bloom’s case for prescriptivism rested on his hypothesis that this is how CEOs speak and write. Not so, says Friedman:

“I do maintain that there are good reasons—clarity and consistency foremost among them—for mastering some rules of language usage. But the notion that we plebes need to speak and write “correctly” so as to impress the higher-ups is simply nonsensical.”

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