Thursday, February 25, 2010

Striking A Blow Against Ill-Informed Pedantry

Steve Blow of The Dallas Morning News writes about Bryan Garner, Dallas resident and author of many books on grammar and linguistics. (If you can state the distinction between those two words, you're more of a language expert than I am.)

After the jump, how Garner the grammar man puts down Steve Blow's "ill-informed pedantry."

Steve Blow reveals himself to be guilty of what Garner calls "ill-informed pedantry" when he indicates that he would prefer the Dr Pepper ad that urges "Drink it slow" read instead "Drink it slowly." Garner tells him to relax, "slow" as an adverb is perfectly acceptable.

Hooray for Bryan Garner. My own pet peeve is not people who misuse language, but the ill-informed pedants who point it out. Because, as Garner's rejoinder suggests, many of the purported corrections are simply ill-informed. The book that set me straight and freed me from the grammar police, now out-of-print but available used on, is "American Tongue And Cheek" by Jim Quinn. From the book's dust jacket:

"[Quinn] demonstrates that the authoritarian pronouncements - the sacred rules of writing and speaking English regularly hurled at us from countless books, teachers, and magazine columns - are based more often on foolishness, ignorance, and superstition than on past or current usage."

If you find yourself cringing when someone says "slow" instead of "slowly" or feeling inadequate because you can't remember when to write "it's" and when "its", this book can do more to lower your blood pressure than any doctor can. One reader who could benefit from reading it is "teecee," who added this comment to Steve Blow's column:

"Am I the only one who's irritated by the Methodist Hospitals signs that say, 'Where life shines bright'? I want to write a big 'ly' on all of them!"
teecee finds "bright" instead of "brightly" irritating? Really? If so, he or she had better stay out of Kentucky. Shining bright has an old and well-accepted heritage there.
"The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home
Tis summer, the darkies are gay
The corn top's ripe and the meadow's in bloom
While the birds make music all the day"
-- Stephen Foster
I don't know about the rest of y'all, but if there's something in those lyrics that's going to irritate me, it's not "the sun shines bright."

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