I can’t begin to tell you (or at least I prefer not to tell you) how many times while reviewing the original text I found myself thinking, “I didn’t know that. Why, I’ve been making that mistake for years.”…In an alarmingly real sense, the alternative title now could be Even More Things in English Usage That the Author Wasn’t Entirely Clear About Until Quite Recently.
That’s Bill Bryson, in the foreword to his Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words. I’ve been reading that and June Casagrande’s Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies over the last few days. It’s fun to read stuff like this, but it’s a bit mortifying to realize how many mistakes I’ve been making for years. At least I can use the excuse that I’m only writing on an insignificant little blog. It’s supposed to be written in a loose, conversational style!
I’ve scoffed before at those who see harbingers of cultural doom in everything those damned kids today are saying and doing, and I accept that a language is often going to be driven by popular usage, no matter how much it causes the grammar scolds to gnash their teeth. But I do feel a little more sympathetic to them now, because so many of the mistakes I’m now aware of in my own writing are due to the fact that I’ve always heard people talk like that. And sometimes the differences are so subtle, you don’t notice them until someone takes the time to point them out. If, as I’ve argued before, texting, Twittering and Facebook posts (oh my!) are creating a sort of sea-level when it comes to the forms of writing that most of us use, one that reinforces mediocrity and minimal effort, where are people going to be exposed to anything that teaches them differently?