Katharina A Powers begins well: “…[C]orrectness in grammar and usage has become an arid obsession with people of the sort who used to be stern about fish knives, oyster forks, and grape shears. You can’t do anything right around this crowd. But, more than that, I finally see that the popularity of these books is a sign of how irredeemably broken down we are in language — just as the plethora of diet and exercise books rests on our being in such ghastly physical shape.” She spends much of the rest of the piece considering various conspiracy theories that might explain the sinister popularity of the word “robust”.

I would have tossed around a conspiracy theory or three myself, but I’m obsessing over a minor issue: while the Babu’s household gets along just fine without grape shears, we do have fish knives, oyster forks…and marrow spoons. And both the Babu and his partner are obsessive proofreaders. We correct signboards (mentally), restaurant menus (sometimes, I’m ashamed to admit, in pen and ink), television newsreaders (verbally; we holler back at them while they’re doing the talking head thing on TV) and each other (we’re not divorced yet, surprisingly). All the same, as readers of this blog know, our standards are very lax. We do not frown on sentences that begin with “And” or “But”; we will split no hairs over split infinitives; and we frequently switch from first to third person and from past tense to present in the same paragraph. We’re not the Grammar Police, really; more like the seen-at-bar-room-brawls Grammar Vigilantes.





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