Authority and American Usage

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Authority and American Usage: Part 1

“Authority and American Usage” written by David Foster Wallace, poses an argument about the English language, and the different beliefs of its usage. This essay was written in defense of Bryan A. Garner’s, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. His argument in “Authority and American Usage” is the difference the between prescriptivism perception and the descriptivism perception (Linguistic terms that could easily be made into smaller, more understandable words for people like me). Since the beginning of time, language has evolved. From biblical times, to Shakespearean times, to present day; the English language has been continuously changing since it’s birth and has no intentions on stopping. There’s a reason why the English language is called the “borrowing language”; taking foreign words, and different dialects and twisting turning them until they find themselves in the latest version of the English dictionary. Prescriptivism argues the bias opinion on how some people think the English language should be used. It would make sense for people to use completely proper grammar, but that’s not how language has ever worked, right? These unwavering hard heads are the grammar Nazis, the annoying boys or girls in your classes that seem to always have the politically correct answer (class kiss-asses), or as Davis Foster Wallace would refer to, the SNOOTS. In my opinion, these SOB’s go head to head with the realistic people of the world; the descriptivists. Descriptivists are more

realistic in the way they think language operates. These people tend observe and take note on how language is used, rather than focus on how it should be used. Language is a natural thing that changes everyday; new words are invented, and old ones are discarded. Descriptvists tend to keep up with and pay attention to the ever-changing American usage of the English language. Descriptivists study mad references, loads of irony, and a...
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