Monday, June 9, 2008

Why the angst?

Recently we've had some discussions on Wordcraft about use of words (such as "anyways" or "less people" or "too nice of a person"). We are, in general, an educated bunch with higher than average intelligence and good debating abilities. Yet, tempers have flared, feelings have been hurt, and people have gotten angry. There have been comments made that we shouldn't use the words prescriptivist or descriptivist anymore because they are divisive.

I wonder why language discussions create this kind of angst. Is it insecurity about one's writing skills? I am not sure, but one thing I am sure about is that I will continue to use the prescriptivist and descriptivist terms. They are descriptive words, and I see no reason why they should be thrown out.


Shoshana said...

Our society puts a very high value on being "well spoken." Proper use of language, whether written or spoken, marks a person as cultured or well educated. Amongst a group of language lovers, emotions predictably run high and egos are on the line in discussions of proper usage. For us, language is religion and prescriptivism could be regarded as linguafundamentalism.

Kalleh said...

Hello Shoshana,

I think you are right. I wasn't educated in linguistics or even in English. I suppose I'd feel the same way about nursing. I do, though, think that too much emphasis is put on some of the nuances of word use and/or punctuation.

BTW, I have it on the best authority that you've moved to Portland. Congratulations, and I hope you are enjoying it. I happen to be there right now.

Cat said...

I think it's a pride of education that makes people's emotions run hot sometimes. We all like to think we're smart. :-) I guess that's about the same thing Shoshana said, but I figure it's nice to have support.