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One Writer's Ravings:       A Logophile's Blog for Language Lovers      

Mark Twain: Prescriptivist Writer

Mark Twain was born in 1835, a year in which Halley's comet appeared after its customary 75-year absence. Shortly before his death in 1910, Twain said that because he came in with the comet he might as well go out with it. And that's just what he did, departing this earth at age 75, the day after the comet made its closest approach to the earth. Any Twain aficionado has to wonder whether the great writer's soul ascended to that wandering celestial body or to the Christian heaven that he mocked so irreverently and hilariously in Letters from the Earth: "From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other pleasures combined, yet . . . it is not in their heaven; prayer takes its place." Read More 
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Don't Stupidsize Me

After my book Verbal Advantage was published ten years ago, I was invited to be a guest on salon.com, answering questions in an author forum called “Table Talk.” It was a lively discussion. At one point a participant commented that many of the keywords in the book struck her as “trivia questions more than elements of a working vocabulary.” And she asked, “As much fun as it is to know a word like sciamachy [fighting with a shadow or an imaginary opponent], do you really think it should be part of everyday discourse?” This was my response: Read More 
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Why All This Verbal Pickiness?

Descriptive linguists are fond of accusing prescriptive language mavens like me of being “opposed to change.” That’s just silly. I’m not opposed to change in language any more than I’m opposed to change in the weather. You can’t be against change, and you can’t be in favor of it. Change is inevitable. Read More 
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