Friday, July 24, 2009

You can split my infinitive any day of the week, baby

I have no idea how I made it through an English degree without The Elements of Style. I had to buy a 600 page canadian grammar guide in my first year, and I only opened it once. I got The Elements of Style for 50 cents at a rummage sale, and in only 70 pages, it has changed the way I think about the English language.

The best part is how delightfully bitchy William Strunk, Jr. can be when it comes to the minutiae of sentence construction. For example, during his discussion of the difference between like and as (page 42 in my battered 1959 edition):
Like has always been widely misused by the illiterate; lately it has been taken up by the knowing and the well-informed, who find it catchy, or liberating, and who use it as though they were slumming. If every word or device that achieved currency were immediately authenticated, simply on the grounds of popularity, the language would be as chaotic as a ball game with no foul lines.

And that's not even getting into the section on style. I feel safe in assuming Strunk would have hated blog culture and the weird mishmash language it has spawned; but what would he think of this?

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