New York Times on the PSAT Glitch

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jun 2 11:45:44 UTC 2003

What an interesting (but sad) fact that matters of language usage are
"not linguistic."


>         I should clarify that, although William Safire on occasion
>has graciously credited ADS members, I do not in reality expect a
>newspaper to give credit for the kind of work that Nunberg used.  In
>any case, my own contributions consisted primarily of literary
>examples, of the sort that are freely available to anyone who takes
>the trouble to look for them.  I do note that Nunberg seemingly
>erred in referring to H.W. Fowler's Modern English Usage, when my
>example was from The King's English, by both of the Fowlers.  It is
>possible, of course, that Nunberg (or his source) does have an
>example from Modern English Usage.
>         I understand that the editors thought that there would be
>more interest in a political take on the dispute.  It is my belief
>that they are mistaken.  There is a significant percentage of the
>newspaper-reading public that takes a real interest in disputes over
>English usage.  I doubt if a specifically linguistic take would fly,
>but a middlebrow account of the rule's failure even on
>prescriptivist terms (the rule is not accepted by better writers or
>by most respected authorities on usage) would certainly find an
>John Baker

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 353-9290

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