Me vs Stephen Fry on Language

A friend of mine posted this video and tagged me, what with me being a punctuation/spelling/grammar/language Nazi.  Even after this well-phrased video, however, I stand my ground.  Here’s my response to the video.

A decent video with some decent points, although I myself argue in favor of precise language for the sake of clarity. Yes, contextually, we can understand what “ten items or less” means, but it also adds ambiguity to the language if we accept an amorphous linguistic approach.

Ambiguity, artful errors, stylistic punctuation, and even misspellings have their place, but I think it more than a little important that these be done intentionally—not out of ignorance. Language is about communication, and we can no more communicate without agreement on a standardized language than we could if we were all speaking in very different dialects of one only vaguely cohesive language.

What is important here is that the standardized version of language we accept be based on the appropriate principles: clear, effective, and (yes) linguistically beautiful communication. In order to accomplish this, we need to adapt to new linguistic trends, accepting that verbing is how much of our language came to be, capitalization rules change, and experimental language (intentional, expressive, experimental language) has a strong purpose.

But “freedom of beautiful linguistic expression” doesn’t do anything to safeguard using the word “alot,” saying “your so funny,” or using the sentence “please no dogs.” These things decrease clarity and warp language—and no, they are most certainly _not_ beautiful.

So let me be a pedant, because I’m part of that group that Fry doesn’t recognize here. I’m a pedant who indulges in the sultry succulence of language at every possible opportunity—who hinges on beautiful phrasings and the color explosions of proper word combinations—who finds poetry in the pining pauses of a dash or a semicolon—and who certainly uses commas more than necessary because that little mental gasp can change entire cadence of a thought.

Cheers,

Rob