PRESCRIPTIVE AS OPPOSED TO DESCRIPTIVE, or: OF WORDS AND TEFLON.

July 11, 2009 at 6:53 pm (ESSAYS, LANGUAGE)

Having been stuck with a translation term-paper for a couple of days over the use of the expression ‘as to’, I finally decided to give in, and consult the ultimate descriptive authority. Sure enough, Google turned up about 284,000,000 results, the cursory examination of which revealed no apparent compunction about using ‘as to’ on the part of anyone, save for one website that referred to it as “a nonstandard, awkward expression”, and suggested “to replace it with the word about, or rewrite the sentence”. Well, thanks for nothing, I sighed. Here is another prescriptive control-freak to tell me that I am right. What is wrong with you (and me)? Merriam-Webster has no problem with ‘as to’, it even dates its use to the 14th century. When in such a bind, and this being a school assignment, one naturally turns to the most relevant prescriptive authority of them all (i.e. the teacher), and, unsurprisingly, gets back an e-mail saying that indeed the expression is better avoided, and that there are plenty of very good alternatives. Well, that settles it, at least for the purposes of the term-paper. By the way, what about ‘as opposed to’? That is fine, replies the prescriptive authority (the teacher). Another sigh – this time of relief.

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IS THERE SUCH THING AS A TRUE SYNONYM?

June 1, 2009 at 1:58 am (ESSAYS, LANGUAGE)

Language is a set of tools people use to communicate with each other. There are means of face-to-face communication that do not involve spoken language, such as gesticulation and facial expressions, but language makes communication easier and more efficient. And just like with any other set of tools, the better our command of language, the more easy and efficient is the process of communication.

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