You’ll be excited to know that tomorrow is National Grammar Day.
I can hear you woot-wooting from all the way over here.
And chances are, unless you have a reason to care, tomorrow might be like any other day. That is, of course, unless you’re into linguistics, which I happen to be. So in linguistic circles, the divide is between descriptivists and prescriptivists.
Did your mind just blank out? Hang in there.
Prescriptivists (think an MD’s awful writing) are people who think the language (really any language, though usually confined to English) has an objective, right way to be written and spoken. Some sort of golden tablet from God telling us when to avoid comma splices and how to connect subordinating clauses. These are the people who get uppity about incorrect punctuation and might interrupt you to draw attention to your use of real vs. really.
Descriptivists are more concerned with how people actually speak. Language in context- the variation, say, between a PhD in astrophysics explaining his latest black hole sighting and a welder talking with his buddies on bowling nite. Equally valid ways of speaking, none more correct than the other.
See that? “Nite”? SO not a prescriptivist term.
I’m somewhere in the middle. As a teacher of language with a graduate degree in linguistics, I kinda hafta care (hehe). I’ll admit to unsubscribing from blogs whose grammatical independence makes me cringe. And signs that advertise “strawberrys” get on my nerves. I’ll own it.
But the variance in dialects is fascinating (ok, maybe only for me). Language is used for power, to create boundaries, to block people or enable people. Heck, we have a President who got elected ’cause he spoke nice.
So as I nerdily celebrate National Grammar Day with my Advanced Grammar class tomorrow, I’ll be sure and note the difference between the artistic stylings of Lindsay Lohan and the more rigid notes of Martha Brockenbrough.
‘Cuz I’s cool like dat.