Part of the problem here is that the diversity of styles of language is not the same thing as diversity of language itself. They’re related but they’re not the same. Sure, insisting on the superiority of one language system over another is a matter of “nationality and identity politics.” But there’s a huge difference between the implications of one culture thinking the language of another is inferior and one culture thinking a poorly rendered version of its own language is inferior.

Merely knowing, and insisting upon, the clearest possible usage of one’s language in printed form doesn’t mean that one is engaged in a futile struggle against progress itself. What really appears to be the most salient point in this book is that there’s language, and then there are grammar rules. It’s important to respect the former and value, though not worship, the latter. Readers and writers would do well to resist unnatural attempts to force a language and a set of rules on a resistant people.

That’s not only obnoxious, it’s futile. Because it turns out that people end up speaking the language they want, no matter what their politicians—or their teachers and copyeditors—prefer.

Click here for a complete Page Views archive.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Daniel Luzer is web editor of the Washington Monthly.