Friday, December 08, 2006

WSJ butters up RH Fiske, but why?

Joseph Epstein writes a loving article on Robert Hartwell Fiske of the Vocabula Review.
Oh, what's this?

Coming in the December issue of The Vocabula Review:
"Cleaning Up My Act" by Joseph Epstein

What the?

Of course Epstein completely mess up the prescriptivist/descriptivist divide.
The Vocabula Review is run on the prescriptivist principle that there are correct and incorrect uses of words; the descriptivists hold that any language used by the majority is automatically acceptable English. "Whatever!" might be the descriptivists' motto; "Not in my house you don't" that of the prescriptivists.

Um no. No.
Behind Mr. Fiske's continuing project is the idea that without careful language there can be no clear thought. Politicians, advertising copywriters, swindlers of differing styles and ambitions know this well and put it to their own devious uses. The rest of us too easily tend to forget this central truth. All words and phrases, to fall back on what I hope isn't a plebeian sentiment, are guilty until proved innocent.

Oh god, language-thought crap. This is where I check out.
Anyway, I'm glad we have these windbags around to keep us from using worn out cliches. Not!

1 comment:

alienvoord said...

I've had a look at Fiske's Dictionary of Disagreeable English, and man it's hard to read with the way he insults linguists. He's really put himself in a difficult position by claiming that dictionaries are wrong. I guess he has superhuman powers that tell him the *real* meanings of words.

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