One of the smaller, but no less bloody skirmishes in the Culture War is being waged on the linguistic front. For those new to the field there are essentially two camps: one made up of linguists, lexicographers, academics or language liberals; the other of conservatives or prescriptivists, the so-called “linguistic luddites.” The conservative’s anguish over the decline of the English language, the linguists charge, is no different than his distress over the decline of culture in general. This “whining,” writes linguist Alan Pagliere, is a mix of nostalgia, self-righteousness, and ignorance of the reality of the laws governing and of the myriad variables involved in language change.
Indeed, the battle cry of the language liberal might be, “Languages change. Get over it.” Most linguists judge that language change is neither good nor bad, and, anyway, resistance is futile. Languages, like hemlines, will change whether we want them to or not. This indifference to standards is reflected in the latest editions of our popular dictionaries in which words that are commonly misspelled (alright) or misused (disinterested) have been given the lexicographer’s stamp of approval.
Yet despite all this talk of transformation the mother tongue has gone remarkably unchanged since the King James Version of the Bible began to stabilize the language in the mid-seventeenth century. Words come and go, yes, but a letter written 367 years ago by John Milton to Benedetto Bonomatthai reads much like one composed by a good writer today:
I am inclined to believe that when the language in common use in any country becomes irregular and depraved, it is followed by their ruin or their degradation.
Now note the dissimilarity between the writing of Chaucer and Shakespeare after a mere 225 years.p>Chaucer: em>Whanne that April with his shoures sote br> The droughte of March hath perced to the rote. /em> /p> p>Shakespeare: em>Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed, br> The dear repose for limbs with travel tired; /em> /p>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?