Thursday, January 15, 2004

Okay, so it's not a book. But it was one of the best things I've read lately. "Tense Present. Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage" by David Foster Wallace in the April 2001 issue of Harper's Magazine is possibly the only 20 page article on grammar that I have ever read, let alone laughed out at. In public. In it, he talks at length about Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, which is a favorite of Sars, a true grammar queen. Since I have "SNOOT" leanings myself, I was fascinated by DFW's explaination of the grammar wars and the different camps, the Prescriptivists vs. the Descriptivists, and how Garner nimbly straddles that divide. He talks about the racism of Standard Written English, the presence of a Universal Grammar (a concept I'd never considered before), and uses cross-dressing as an example of a Descriptivist argument. The more I read his works, the more impressed I become. DFW is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

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