weird al

The author of this post from the Language Log blog, Ben Zimmer, makes three main points, two of which I really like.  (There’s nothing wrong with the other point, I just don’t think it’s as great.)  The points are in reference to the evident uproar in the linguistic community caused by Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crime’s video.  The uproar has been caused by Weird Al’s suggestion to everybody who can’t use proper grammar – which is just about everybody – to obtain the services of a linguist for help.  Many linguists, to the contrary, have been fighting for years to get everybody to loosen up their prescriptive shackles, and focus on everyday, more casual language – as pointed out in this article.

The first great point is this:  “…the notion of “Proper English” typically serves to prop up the already-privileged speakers whose native language variety it is (sort of) based on. This puts speakers whose native language variety does not approximate “Proper English” at an immediate disadvantage in society, the same way that privileging Whiteness puts those who are not White at an immediate disadvantage in society.”

The second great point is… “that the view of “grammar” as “you must learn the rules or else be ostracized” just makes grammar no fun at all! Studying language—really digging into it, uncovering its remarkably complex yet orderly structure, investigating what makes it different across speakers and communities—is SUPER FUN! Giving people a list of rules of things to do in order to not be criticized is NOT FUN!”

Right on!