Lexicon Valley on Prescriptivism and Language Peeves

A show about the mysteries of English.
Aug. 6 2013 8:30 PM

Grammar Scolds Unite!

Embracing the hand-slapping, prescriptivist schoolmarm in all of us.

Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 32: The Burden of Being Right

When it comes to language, everyone’s a little bit prescriptivist. Even those of us who otherwise celebrate invention and creativity within English, and embrace the frequent evolution of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar, still cringe now and then at a particular usage. But who died and left us in charge? Well, Noah Webster for starters. And Richard Grant White, and H.W. Fowler, and all of the other self-appointed usage experts and language scolds of the 19th and 20th centuries. More to the point, though, why do you care what I do with the language? Listen to Bob Garfield, Mike Vuolo, and linguist John McWhorter of Columbia University wrestle their inner pedants to the ground.

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Mike Vuolo is senior producer of podcasts and editor of @lexiconvalley.