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Oh, Please

I was reading this list of purportedly correct uses of the English language to which “pedants” routinely object. (That’s right: “To which.”) But when the writer started defending the phrase “near miss”, I just closed the browser window and went on my merry way.

UPDATE: By the bye, yes, there is a grammatical error in the Friday Book Corner blurbs I wrote. (Referenced here.) It was a simple mistake; I am not a hypocrite!

UPDATE: From the Inbox, I see that John Buckholz smartly sums up the trouble with many of these “wrongly wrong” points of grammar: “Sheer frequency of misuse does not excuse the error.” Most people are willing to admit that dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. But good grammar is a known quantity unaffected by the number of people who use it incorrectly, no matter how ancient or zealous their misuse.

John also provides this good response to the writer’s use of Winston Churchill’s famous rail (“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”) against the terminating preposition rule:

Ending a sentence with a preposition IS improper in formal English. It is acceptable to say, “This is the sort of English I won’t put up with” in casual conversation. But one of our language’s virtues is the ready availability of synonyms. To avoid the Churchillian construction, one would write: “This is the sort of English I will not tolerate.” This should be obvious; “put up with” is a colloquialism itself, and should not be used in formal writing.


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