Today is English Language Day, and yesterday we had a wondeful sneak preview of it with Harry Ritchie’s talk Ashamed of your English?, followed by more talk on English prescriptivism during lunch afterwards. Last year’s post to commemorate the day was called “Correct-your-English-language-day”, but, as Harry assured us, there is no need for that. At least, not if you are a native speaker of English. Great news I would say.
More English language news is that there is a new edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage. Adrian already told me about it a few weeks ago. This is great news from my own perspective, because it means my prediction has come true: 1st edition: 1998, 2nd edition: 2003; 3rd edition: 2009; 4th ed.: 2016?. So yes: he made it! What is more amazing, though, is not how the changing titles over the years came to look more and more like those of Fowler, but how “American” has now given way to “English”: this seems the ultimate change of title, so what will happen next, I wonder, and when?
Here is what Carmen thinks about the new edition:
What was so intriguing about his new edition was his innovative five-stage acceptability rating. Ranging from Stage 5 Refined, containing the most widely accepted usage features, to Stage 1: Audible flatulence, Garner’s ratings are not only intriguing and slightly bizarre, but also show a striking similarity with the arbitrariness of usage rules described by Milroy and Milroy (Authority in Language 2002, p. 1). The comparison of table manners to usage rules is more prominent than ever. However, what needs to be borne in mind is that table manners, just like usage rules, can vary. There is certainly a difference between having a family dinner at home and a formal gala at a posh restaurant. Social conventions such as these even vary between countries. How we follow these social and linguistic conventions is an fascinating subject to study, due to the changing norms and conventions and the prescriptivists’ insistence on tradition.
Any more English language news you’d like to share with us on this year’s English Language Day?
You may well be interested to hear that Bryan Garner will be in the Netherlands in June. He’s one of the keynote speakers at a symposium called ‘De kracht van begrijpelijke taal’, organised by Bureau Taal on 21 June. See: http://symposium.bureautaal.nl/.
Very interesting: thanks for letting us know, Tony!