Dave Might Be a Wordist!

In the newest Hidden Brain podcast, linguist John McWhorter argues that it is the nature of language to change, and it is the nature of old people to argue that the changes are indicative of degradation and decay . . . but living languages always change-- words, context, diction, usage, style-- there's no stopping the changes because the changes are inevitable, and while it might irk and irritate older people, or people educated a certain way, McWhorter believes that once a critical mass of people are using a certain word or phrase or context, you can't claim that that usage is "wrong," and he thinks that the last vestiges of socially approved prejudice are for language usage-- in civilized society, you can't stereotype people for race, gender, religion, or sexuality-- but you can still make broad judgements based on language usage . . . and he's convinced me; I've always told my students that "language is a river," yet I paradoxically correct people when they use "lay" when they mean "lie" . . . and I used to correct people when they said "nauseous" when they meant "nauseated" . . . I gave up the latter because I recognized that a critical mass had shifted the usage, and I'm going to quit the "lie" and "lay" business as well . . . because I don't want to be a wordist (or an anti-dentite!)

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