Fwd: nah, they've beat you to it

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jun 4 15:26:32 UTC 2003

we could call ourselves grammarians as much as we want, but
i don't think the rest of the world is going to buy it.  you'd
think that by producing the Cambridge Grammar of the English
Language, a weighty account of international formal standard written
english, rodney huddleston and geoff pullum would be able to style
themselves as grammarians (believe me, they've tried), but instead
they are reviled in reviews as evil *descriptive* *linguists* who
refuse to hold the line against things like split infinitives and
stranded prepositions.

i think the problem is that we teach in linguistics programs,
publish (at least sometimes) in linguistics journals, and belong
to organizations like the Linguistic Society of America and the
American Dialect Society.  we're branded.

look, some of the college handbooks and some of the pop grammarian
books are really pretty good.  i've been reading some theodore
bernstein recently, and he's mostly quite reasonable and offers
helpful advice.  even bryan garner, who despises theoretical
linguistics and its pathetic fruit the MWDEU, is largely non-loony.
but bernstein was a newspaper editor and garner a lawyer, and
neither has had anything to do with linguistics, so they can set
up shop as grammarians.

if you're in an english department, you can style yourself as a
rhetorician or an authority on written composition, which is
almost as good as being a grammarian, and possibly more useful.
just don't sign up with the LSA or publish in American Speech;
then you'd be one of them no-standards, let-it-all-hang-out,
roller-coaster-to-ebonics *linguists*, fit only to speak to your
own kind, in the special zones set aside for you, where you can't
harass the citizenry.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu), trying out some tricky
  changes of viewpoint

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