Touchy about questions of usage

In a wonderful new book that came out last year, called The Language Wars: A History of Proper EnglishHenry Hitchings writes that “English-speakers are touchy about questions of usage” (p. 4). What English speakers does he mean, I wonder, Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, speakers of Other Englishes? Is it indeed touchiness that makes speakers of British English complain about the influence of American English on their language, as well, as we saw yesterday, as the reverse?

Such “touchiness”, Hitchings continues, “is not uncommon among speakers of other languages, but English is the most contested language”. The most contested language, by who (whom?), who by? And why should this be so? I’d really like to know.

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One Response to Touchy about questions of usage

  1. Robin Straaijer says:

    Last May, Hitchings’ book was reviewed in the New Yorker by Joan Acocella. The review kicked up quite a storm. Linguists such as Steven Pinker and Mark Liberman, who considered it to be ludicrous exercise by someone with no linguistic training, wrote irate replies online. Consequently, the linguistic blogosphere exploded and the review stirred up more debate than the book it reviewed. I think this is an interesting example of how touchy speakers of English are about this subject.

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