On Language and the Possibility of Prescriptivism

I consider blogging part of my job now. When you want to become a professional writer, you have to take every opportunity you can to write and to learn… and to have your grammar ripped apart. I admit, I haven’t been a saint when it comes to pleasing the grammar gods, but I haven’t been intentionally naughty, either.

I consider myself a writer with the best intentions; I’m just not always sure how to use them.

That is why I use every resource I can to learn about what’s considered “proper.”

I think human beings should take speaking as seriously as they take walking or listening to music. If someone was bad at walking, wouldn’t they do what they could to improve? Wouldn’t they have a natural inclination to want to walk like everyone else? As people, we’ve been given the gift of walking and we expect to be able to use it. If someone was poor regarding their use of grammar (and speaking in my humble opinion) wouldn’t they want to improve their English so that they could speak properly and be able to converse with the majority of society?

These days, there are so many different vernaculars, which are a close off-shoot of English, that deeming one particular version as “correct” is impossible these days, even for the experts. When writing professionally, you must decide between using the MLA, AP, or Chicago style.

Using abbreviations such as “IMO” or “lol” is typical of Internet-Speak, or geek-speak if you prefer. People who frequent online communities like Facebook, and especially online games like World of Warcraft and Fortnight, use their own language filled with internet slang like the above examples.

I believe that there exists, floating somewhere out in the fibers of space and our minds, THE manual for correct grammar, even if we’ll never know it. Call me a prescriptivist about language, but having to decide amongst three different styles in which to write seems to defeat the purpose of having a “style guide.” How can it be called a “guide!” They should simply be called “suggestions, that are usually wrong.”

Granted, I’ll only be using one style per article or paper, so it’s not as though I’m balancing multiple style guides in my head while I write. The point is just that the linguistic prescriptivist in me believes there is only one correct language, that’s used universally. To elaborate a bit more: it’s kind of like math equations, where language is an equation. But, it’s all Wishful Thinking. Too many classes in The Philosophy of Language!


I found some comics from my favorite site, along with an interesting debate on prescriptivism with Harry Potter as the example!

Link: Prescriptivism vs Descriptivism: A Very English Affair

Scare Tactics, Part 1: The Powdered Creamer Atop Mt. Counter

My parents used scare tactics on me when I was a child and, given my genetic propensity toward anxiety, it probably wasn’t the wisest method of child-rearing in retrospect.

Take, for example, the story that inspired this post:

At a mere five years old, I made frequent, albeit unsuccessful, attempts to scale our kitchen counters. I was almost tall enough to see all the little trinkets and assorted kitchen tools that my parents kept up there and at times the anticipation of my potential discoveries was too much to bear. Finally, the day came when I was tall enough; I would able to reach the top of those previously-daunting counters and explore the world inhabited exclusively by my parents. It was upon completing my climb to the top of the counters when I discovered it.

It was a simple brown jar of about three inches in height, with a tiny spoon laying at its side. Upon climbing to the top of Mt. Counter, it was that jar that I suddenly wanted to open more than anything else. It was the jar that housed my mom’s sweet addition to her morning cup of coffee: powdered creamer. While I can’t recall whether I snuck the first taste for myself or if my mom was the enabler, I do know that once the powdered creamer touched my lips, it was like crack and I was the addict. At night, I would sneak into the kitchen with the stealth of a mini-ninja, just so I could down spoonfuls of it; all the while, I was wishing that I was an adult so that I could have entire meals fashioned out of this utterly amazing substance.

Just with all mischievous children, my actions caught up with me one fateful day and my mom caught me in the act. On that day, my powdered creamer addiction came to a sudden, alarming end; it was also on that day that I had the fear of god instilled in me. My mother informed me that eating too much of this delicious substance that was surely heaven-sent would cause me to have a heart attack!

I remember thinking, “She’s my mom, and if my mom is telling me not to eat this, then she must know what she’s talking about. There’s no way my mother would ever lie, especially not to me.”

Oh, to once again have the naivety of a child, if for only one day; just imagine how different the world would be.

You have to at least give parental credit for being clever. And this isn’t really even clever; I’ve got better stories than this to share.