Recently, while sitting on my screen porch with my son and Sophie, our dog, he and I discussed when it was grammatically correct to use drank rather than drunk. (We were discussing whether or not Sophie, a puppy, had consumed enough water over the course of the day.) My son, a freshman in high school who has just completed his first year of studying Latin, got tangled up in an analysis of whether or not the tense regarding time–when one drank–was more important than the subject–he, she, we, they, etc….
This conversation is not an anomaly in my life. As a writer and an argumentative soul, I often find myself defending one kind of punctuation or word choice. And, routinely, I find there is more than one way to parse a sentence. For example, recently in Slate.com, Ben Yagoda, a professor of English at the University of Delaware, wrote an article defending the British habit of putting punctuation outside of quotation marks. (This makes sense to me, but is wildly offensive to many an American copy editor.) Every year the world’s most prominent English language dictionary, the O.E.D., adds new words–many of which make linguistic purists shudder. The latest edition included the first ever graphical symbol: the ♥ icon. (This makes me antsy. What will next year bring? The text cu as a word? That does make me shudder!) (more…)