Killing in the name of language

I post this for three reasons. First, I have a deep appreciation for language. Second, it mentions a common quote misattribution, and I recently corrected a quote attribution for which I had long been crediting the wrong individual. Third, it tickles my fancy.

Every time a post or comment on Language Log mentions, in any context, the prescriptive disapproval of preposition stranding (where a preposition is separated from its logically associated complement, as in What are you looking at?), e.g. in this post, we get commenters (who, incidentally, seem never to have read the site before) tussling with each other to be the first to inscribe two routinized types of comment.

One type says “I think a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with!”, or words very much to that effect (unaware that instances of this lame “look-I’m-violating-the-rule” joke have been going on since at least the 1700s). The other type says, “This is nonsense up with which I shall not put!” (invariably thinking that they are quoting Sir Winston Churchill, though Ben Zimmer definitively refuted that misattribution years ago in a post that Mark and I subsequently included in our book, and it is enormously annoying to us that still no one is aware of Ben’s discovery).

Unable to bear any longer the tedious work of seeking out all the instances of these two comment types so I can delete them, I have decided that from now on I will hunt down the relevant commenters and kill them.

I realize that it is unusual for a popular science blog to launch upon a policy of killing its own readers. That is why I thought an explicit warning should go up on the site first. This is that warning.

PZ has some of his own warnings.

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