Saturday, March 19, 2011

Around the Word

Language may be evolving, but some rules never go out of style.

The times, they are a'changin', at least according The Associated Press Stylebook. As of 3 a.m. EDT, March 19, 2011, "e-mail" will be officially rechristened "email," reports John McIntyre on The Baltimore Sun's blog, You Don't Say. And that's not all. By tomorrow morning, "smart phone" and "cell phone" will also be fused into single words.

Is language doomed? On Sentence First, Stan Carey considers the popular debate, and assures us that--despite the perennial warnings of a certain "subset of prescriptivists"--the linguistic dark ages have yet to descend. "The idea that languages deteriorate is a persistent one, and not without foundation," Carey argues, noting that "languages change incessantly, and sometimes this takes the form of weakening or inflation or degradation. Sometimes it doesn’t."

What do you think? Are alarmed grammarians onto something, or is Carey right that language is simply a "hook on which to hang [our] worries about an uncertain future"?

For now, though, some classic grammatical principles still apply, and Ron Reinalda's here to help parse them. "Buckle your seatbelts," he writes in, "we’re going on a punctuation tour." Kicking things off with a quick review of the "basic and universal" period, Reinalda guides writers through the landscape of proper usage, from semicolons and quotation marks to those surprisingly-pesky question marks.

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