One Right Way

Yet another inventory of postings (on Language Log and on this blog), this time on references to One Right Way in usage advice.

One Right Way  is the “one form, one meaning” principle (which has been articulated by a number of writers in various contexts) turned into usage advice, with two parts:

(1) There is One Right Way to use an expression; a form should have only one meaning.

(2) There is One Right Way to express a meaning; a meaning should be expressed by only one form. No true synonyms.

Both clauses are used to object to lexical innovations (or what are perceived to be innovations), among other things: clause (1) to object to extensions of meanings (decimate ‘devastate’ is a famous example) and to category shifts (verbings, nounings, and adjings, as in the case of fun); and clause (2) to object to novel lexical items, including back-formations, and also to the cases covered by (1) (on the grounds that the language already has ways of expressing the meaning in question).  There are other uses as well, described in the postings below.

The inventory covers only postings where the label One Right Way is used. As a result, they’re all by me, since I’m the writer who regularly uses this label (in these blogs and in ADS-L).

Language Log Classic

AZ, 5/3/05: Don’t do this at home, kiddies!:

AZ, 2/11/06: Whatever is not prohibited is permitted – not!:

AZ, 9/13/06: The tyranny of the majority, and other reasons for choosing a variant:

AZ, 2/24/07: Tolerating variation, or not:

AZ, 7/22/07: One will get you four more:

AZ, 12/30/07: Blameless:

New Language Log

AZ, 5/15/08: approve (of):

AZ, 5/16/08: protest of:

AZ, 7/13/08: Test obscenity, taboo avoidance, and prescriptivism:

AZ, 7/30/08: Not exactly a smackdown:

AZ, 10/30/08: Periods:

AZ, 3/24/09: Wordy, not classy, and lazy:

AZ, 4/4/09: Agreement with disjunctive subjects:

AZ, 5/15/09: Rigid complementarity:

AZ, 5/8/09: Making distinctions 1:

Arnold Zwicky’s blog


Stick to those good old irregular plurals

McIntyre, simmering

9 Responses to “One Right Way”

  1. Lollipops, Suckers, and Maggots in the Trash « Literal-Minded Says:

    […] between them, even if it’s just a distinction in degree of formality. Arnold Zwicky has blogged a lot on OFOM as it relates to prescriptive rules on grammar and usage. For example, when some English […]

  2. Bald assertion « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] one variant as the “correct” one. That is, the writers generally subscribe to the One Right Way principle (probably without having formulated it), in roughly the following form: if no meaning […]

  3. The Volokh Conspiracy » Blog Archive » Which Is the Correct Way to Say the Current Year — “Twenty Ten” or “Two Thousand Ten”? Says:

    […] One Right Way theory leads some people to insist that it must be just one, usually by analogy to other usage. […]

  4. The obscenicons vs. the grawlixes « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] recognize the implicit appeal to One Right Way — we have to choose one variant over the other as the “correct” one, since […]

  5. You don’t really get language, do you? « Motivated Grammar Says:

    […] they don’t really get language. In Yeager’s case, he adheres to the axiom of One Right Way: there is a single correct form of each word, a single correct way of saying any given thing. Once […]

  6. Inflection rage « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Right Way comes in many variants (for an inventory of postings on ORW, up to 6/28/09, see here), but the one here — denying the possibility of variation in inflectional forms (at least in […]

  7. Language correctness, corruption, and doom « Sentence first Says:

    […] rules have grammatical validity, and they reject alternative styles because it’s simpler to have One Right Way – the way they’re most familiar with. But what’s correct varies with dialect and context: it […]

  8. for on the desktop « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] things at that. If you’re intolerant of variation and tend to insist that there should be One Right Way of saying things, then alternatives like (1) and (3) — or, more generally, (2) and (4) […]

  9. If ye love me | Never Pure and Rarely Simple Says:

    […] there is and must me a distinction between the two. (Linguist/blogger Arnold Zwicky calls this the One Right Way principle.) I would always say pray to the Father, but pray the Father has existed alongside it for […]

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