On Descriptive Grammar and Banal Bigotry

blawg

I am forever being told that
prescriptive spelling is a tool of oppression.
And always, the way being defended,
just happens to be fucking American
– Tim

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Every few months or so a series of memes and critiques run through the social media mill, and they all sing the same refrain: “telling people how to write or speak correctly is authoritarian and bigoted”. The impulse is correct: We’ve all seen ‘proper grammar’ used to shit on a lower class, or justify a racist position. We all know that language is full of traps to figure out ‘who belongs’. But the simplicity of the “there is no such thing as proper English” critique is going to fuel this weekly writing exercise .

Anyone who’s read three of my sentences knows I’m not picky about grammar. I doubt I could be even if I wanted—I don’t have the skills or training. But I…

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The Etymology of a Book

Kristen Twardowski

We think of books as being filled with words and ideas, but they themselves are also a word and an odd one that. So how did the English word “book” come to be?

The term originated from several linguistic paths. Its closest relative is the Old English word bōc, which also meant book. As German speakers may guess, bōc shares a root with the Old Saxon word bôk and Old High German word buoh. The original meaning of these words was not “book” as we know it today, but rather referenced some sort of “writing-tablet, leaf, or sheet.”

Linguists believe that the various iterations of these terms are related to the Old English term bóc and Old Norse term bók, both of which reference beech trees. It is suggested that early written works may have been drafted on paper or tablets made from the bark of beech trees. It…

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