Although I’m renowned among my friends as a language pedant, I know that pedantry has its limits, and can be taken too far. For example, I fully accept the following facts about language:
1. Languages have different dialects, which are each as valid for their own speakers as any other
2. Language changes over time
So I hope it’s not too shocking to reveal that I’m perfectly comfortable with the existence of a dialect called “American English” with different pronunciations and vocabulary.
I’m even comfortable with some influence and exchange between American and British. It was absolutely right, for example, that we British standardised to the short scale and accepted that a “billion” is a thousand million – though it would be nice if the Americans, in return, would stop being idiots and convert to an internally consistent date notation system.
However, I think it will probably surprise many people to learn that there are a few Americanisms which I actually think are better than their British equivalents, and which I’d be happy to see adopted as standard British English.
What I hate most about the opponents of equal marriage – aside from their closeted homophobia and blocking of decent egalitarian legislation, obviously – is when they claim to object to “changing the meaning of the word ‘marriage'”.
Last week it was reported in the press that the Oxford English Dictionary had updated its entry for the word ‘literally’, including a second definition, “informal, used for emphasis while not being literally true”, thereby legitimizing its longstanding misuse.
Now, obviously this enrages me to the point of bloodlust. However, I don’t see any of those people who suddenly appeared from nowhere, claiming to be linguistic purists when ‘marriage’ was at stake, protesting over this.
Over the past few years, we’ve heard a lot from newspapers and the like about the growing menace of “internet trolls”: nasty, ignorant cyber-bullies who hide behind the safety of their computer screens and hurl abuse and harassment at politicians, celebrities and ordinary innocent people unfortunate enough to step into their sights.