Encamped at opposite poles of the English-speaking world are extremists whose habits annoy the general population. At one end are those who are either profoundly ignorant of correct usage or completely indifferent to it. Tell one of them that he just misused the possessive your in place of the contraction you’re, and he may clap a palm to his forehead and exclaim, “I should of known!” Less forgivable is the tendency of their nemeses, the strict grammarians, to point out linguistic transgressions at every opportunity. They’re the ones who won’t let this whole lie versus lay business lie. Or lay. Whatever.
In between is the vast spectrum of English users and abusers, each of us harboring a unique sense of that which is laudable, that which is permissible, and that which must be condemned. To trample over one of our beloved conventions is to commit a heresy. Conversely, correcting any of our colorful colloquialisms is boorish dogmatism. That is the crux of the problem with grammatical debate. It’s impossible to define a universally appealing set of standards. Read More