You know how prescriptivists are always on about how kids these days lade their speech with hedges like like or kinda or sorta?  (Of course, adults do the same thing, but that’s neither here nor there.) I wrote about this a while back and, like a moth to a flame, a prescriptivist flew through and commented on the travesty that is kids’ speech today.  Why don’t these dang kids just come out and say things categorically and unequivocally?

Well, if kids will permit me to take up their mantle for a moment, I’ve got to say, the kids are right to do what they do. Prescriptivists don’t hedge nearly enough. Witness Josh Abraham’s open letter to Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation:

[…] you recommend punctuating as follows:

4   Though it is less rigorously applied than it used to be, there is a rule that when a noun phrase such as “stainless steel” is used to qualify another noun, it is hyphenated, as “stainless-steel kitchen”. Thus you have corrugated iron, but a corrugated-iron roof. The match has a second half, but lots of second-half excitement. Tom Jones was written in the 18th century, but is an 18th-century novel. The train leaves at seven o’clock; it is the seven-o’clock train.


Therefore, crazy lady who does not practice what she preaches, one has zero tolerance, but a zero-freakin’-hyphen-tolerance approach. Where the bloody blazes is the dang hyphen betwixt “Zero” and “Tolerance” in your stupid title, you daffy bird?!?

This isn’t out of the ordinary for prescriptivists; hardly a month goes by without the Language Loggers pillorying some foolishly certain prescriptivist for breaking the very rule the prescriptivist was trying to impose.  For goodness’ sake, guys, learn how to hedge!  We descriptivists appreciate you making it easy for us to show that your advice is poorly-thought-out, but c’mon — we do like a challenge every now and then.  Offering up such obvious hypocrisy makes it like shooting fish in a barrel.

[hat tip for the Abraham letter to Justin Moss]


Also, a dispatch from the “I majored in math and therefore find patterns in everything” portion of my brain: If you’ll be so kind as to direct your attention to the Blogroll to your left, you’ll note that I finally (only, what eight months after the fact?) got around to re-naming “Notes from the Copy Editor” to “Language is the People’s“.  This means that the blogroll now has an unintentional linear separator.  All of the Language Blogs come before “lively” in the dictionary, while all of the Not Language Blogs come after. Unfortunately, this means that it will be very difficult for me to add a new blog to the blogroll if it does not fit this scheme.  I wish I could say I was joking.  Please adjust your blog names accordingly.