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Posts Tagged ‘prescriptivism’

Proof that Dictionaries Are Not Source for Proper Grammar: “Thx” Now in Dictionary

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 14, 2013

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

We at languageandgrammar.com have taken some criticism for saying things like “Dictionaries are a source of common usage, not necessarily correct grammar” (see What Does the Word Dictionary Mean?), but now that the Oxford Dictionary has added thx as an entry, we’ve been proven correct.

It’s in the dictionary, so it has to be right: That’s what we often hear when a non-word (such as drug as the past tense of drag) is used. Now, thx to the Oxford dictionary, either words don’t have to┬áinclude vowels, or it is true that dictionaries are a reflection of usage, not necessarily proper grammar.

We’re not saying that dictionaries serve no purpose, but it is important to remember that they are not the final word on what is gramatically correct.

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Factoid Verus Fact

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 12, 2010

I’ve received some criticism related to my book (Literally, the Best Language Book Ever) for my tendency toward prescriptivism, and we’ve also had some negative comments on the blog for the same reason, but the “word” factoid probably explains the need for rules and consistency in language as well anything.

Factoid is not included in any print dictionary we own, but it is defined in many online dictionaries, including dictionary.com, where it means either an insignificant fact or something fictitious or unsubstantiated that’s presented as fact.

In other words, factoid means either fact or fiction, rendering the term an instant source of confusion. The person saying it, or the person hearing it, can rightfully interpret the word in two opposing ways.

So much for the prescriptivist philosophy of “all that matters is that listener knows what the speaker means.”

–Paul

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