On his Baltimore Sun blog, John McIntyre (mild-mannered copy editor) has been posting repeatedly on the Associated Press’s decision to (finally) cease objecting to over used for ‘more than’. The latest chapter:
Write about language, as about climate change or evolution, and what do you get? A strident chorus of denial. I wonder why.
Last week Tom Chivers wrote about English grammar at The Telegraph, patiently explaining why a good deal of what has been taught about grammar is unsound and what linguists, Geoffrey Pullum in particular, have discovered in examining how we speak and write.
… Writing later at Language Log, Professor Pullum evaluated the comments thus: “Discussion seemed to be dominated by an army of nutballs who often hadn’t read the article. They seemed to want (i) a platform from which to assert some pre-formed opinion about grammar, or (ii) a chance to insult someone who had been the subject of an article, or (iii) an opportunity to publicly beat up another commenter.”
As is so often the case, the liberating openness of Internet discussion turns out to resemble an argument about sports terms among people who have had too much to drink as last call nears.
I’ve been musing about what lies beneath all the fury.
Perhaps the simplest explanation is the phenomenon labeled mumpsimus. People are disposed to stick with what they have come to think of as stable knowledge, and the more it is explained to them that they are mistaken, the more they cling to error.
My eye was caught by mumpsimus.