Medium versus message?

Subject: Medium versus message?
From: Wolf Lahti <wduby -at- PACCAR -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 8 Aug 1996 10:18:08 -0700

Lisa Higgins

>If your meaning is clear and unambiguous, your language is
>grammatically correct.

I don't think anyone would argue that "I never didn't want to do nothing so
little" (a favorite phrase of one of my professors) is grammatically
correct, regardless of how unambiguous its meaning. The
Language-is-what-is-spoken School can obviously be brought to ridiculous
extremes. We have standards, and it behooves us to abide by them.

Frank Herbet said, "Language can carry any burden we choose; all it takes is
agreement, and a tradition on which to build."

Too many people wave the standard of the first half of that statement (_a
la_ Lewis Carrol's Humpty Dumpty) and forget about the agreement and,
especially, the tradition. My deciding that "trammel" means "bedroll" or
that every sentence should end in "the" does not make what I say or write
grammatically correct.

It may be argued that the rule-following school can likewise be taken to
extremes, but given a choice between that and linguistic anarchy, I happily
opt for the former.

"I hate quotations!" If I told you that my opinions
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson represented my employer, would
you believe me?
Wolf Lahti wduby -at- paccar -dot- com wolf-lahti -at- usa -dot- net
Anacortes, Washington

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