James Cochrane is a really angry person. See, the world is full of these people that take his language and do things with it that he doesn’t like. This riled him so much that he went out and wrote a book (Between You and I, 2003) listing all the ways common mushmouths hurt his language, in alphabetical order, and then pointing out how you are an imbecile if you do these things. I’ve only been able to put up with so much of him excoriating me for saying things like “It feels like I’m falling in love”, so, in fairness, it’s possible he lightens up after the Cs. But here’s a quick rundown of some of his feelings about users of English, from the A through C sections:

“To say something like ‘as far as United’s chances’ … is lazy and uneducated.” (17)
“It is hard to find a reason for its not being used … other than sheer stupidity.” (21)
“It is not at all good English to be bored of something.” (22)
“Educated readers will not need to be told that could of represents an illiterate mishearing…” (31)

Sadly, Cochrane’s book does not address the distressing tendency among pigheaded authors to misuse the word educated. (I skipped ahead to the E section just to make sure.) Educated, as defined by the OED, means “That has received education, mental or physical; instructed, trained, etc.”. The meaning intended by Cochrane in his quote about could of is in fact that of the word well-educated or perhaps the phrase properly educated; he is attempting to distinguish between those (like him) who learned how to be a pedant and those (like the rest of us) who learned how not to be a jerk.

The more I think about this, the angrier I get. I am aware that using educated to mean well-educated is well-established by common usage by the hoity-toity set. But these same people are the ones who rail against how common usage is making as and like interchangeable, or about how common usage permits disinterested both as indifferent and impartial. The difference is that it’s poor, under-educated people who make the latter mistakes. But, Mr. Cochrane, I submit to you that you are no better than the masses whose educations you derisively dismiss as inconsequential. And I just want to suggest that, in your own words, “It is hard to find a reason for [well-educated] not being used … other than sheer stupidity.”

Cochrane has some other overly harsh opinions that I hope to comment upon in the near future. However, I just can’t take his martyrdom seriously right now, and I feel this way about all the others who anoint themselves educated and anoint the rest of us fools. It is a very fine line between language change and language crime, and unfortunately, some ill-informed judges hold the court.

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