Yesterday we took my son Aran, who's now three and a half, to Legoland, where he got to ride his first rollercoaster, since he's now just tall enough for the smaller ones. As we spun around the track, he leaned against me and shrieked with a mixture of trepidation and glee. Afterwards, he proudly told me, "I scrome (/skro:m/) on the roller coaster," a form that made me sit up and take note, as it's an innovative irregular past form of "scream" that I'm pretty sure he came up with himself, although I can't completely rule out the possibility that he heard it at his preschool.
Yeah, I know that some of you probably think the title to this post is redundant, but some attempts to prescribe (or proscribe) language are stranger than others. On Language Log, Arnold Zwicky writes about a whimsical proscription from Ambrose Bierce, along with someone who apparently believes that that as a complementizer can never be omitted. According to this person, "I know he is a good man" should really be "I know that he is a good man."
Hasty generalizations about grammar quickly get you into trouble. As a case in point, consider the difference between subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement. Both require, in the core cases, attention to the number (singular or plural) of a particular noun phrase. At the same time, there are important differences, and treating the two as identical can lead to significant problems.
But I thought The Onion was supposed to be satire:
In a surprising refutation of the conventional wisdom on opinion entitlement, a study conducted by the University of Chicago's School for Behavioral Science concluded that more than one-third of the U.S. population is neither entitled nor qualified to have opinions.
Personally, I find etymology very interesting. I am, after all, a quondam medievalist whose interests lay particularly in historical linguistics. As I intimated in my previous post, though, I also find the way it is generally served up for public consumption to be a bit irritating.
I have mixed feelings about Hotforwords. On the plus side, she's talking about language, she generally does some research, and she seems to have a clue about linguistic matters. (Oh, yeah, and she really is hot.) On the other hand, she confines herself to a fairly trivial form of etymology: stories about word origins shorn of historical linguistics. It also appears that her research is confined to looking things up in a few of the standard references (like the OED), and, more questionably, Wikipedia.