The Great Language Change Hoax

On Dennis Baron’s blog The Web of Language for today, “The Great language change hoax”, which begins:

Deniers of global warming, the big bang, and evolution have a new target: language change. Arguing that language change is just a theory, not a fact, they’re launching efforts to remove it from the school curriculum. To support their efforts, they’re citing a new report, “The Great Language Change Hoax,” presented last month at the annual conference of the Society for Pure English in Toronto.

The authors of the study, Jon Lamarck and Tori Lysenko, are cognitive biophysicists at Hudson University who feel that explaining language is best done by scientists who know nothing about language. Linguists, the researchers usually associated with language study, are too close to their subject matter, thus too subjective. “We don’t even like language,” Lamarck told attendees at the SPE conference. “That’s why we can be objective about it.”

On the Society for Pure English, from the Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, ed. Tom McArthur (1998):

A reforming society founded in England in 1913 by a number of writers and academics on the initiative of the poet Robert Bridges. The outbreak of the First World War impeded its development, but between 1919 and 1946 it carried on a campaign against what it regarded as degenerate tendencies within the language, mainly through a series of 66 Tracts, for many years printed and distributed by Oxford University Press. The terms pure and tract indicate the quasi-missionary approach adopted by Bridges and his associates.

Hudson University, whose motto is Lex et Ordo, figures often in the tv series Law and Order.

But Lamarck and Lysenko are giveaways just on their own.

For the day on Wordnik, the piece “Dupes, Gulls, and Schnooks: The Words of April Fools” by Angela Tung.


2 Responses to “The Great Language Change Hoax”

  1. Greg Morrow Says:

    Hudson University ultimately comes from Batman comics, as it turns out — that’s where Dick (Robin) Grayson went when he went away to college. It made it to L&O via comics writer Gerry Conway, who became a story editor at L&O.

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