Friday, April 27, 2018

Permitted To Freely Split Infinitives

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint". - Hesiod, 8th century BC.


When I was a teenager, I loved to quote, to people of my parent's generation, ancient Greeks griping about the lazy, disrespectful new generation. Similar observations having recurred for 30 centuries straight, it would follow that either our race has 1. devolved, by this point, to invertebrate slime, or else 2. this had been, all along, empty pique from crusty twits rigidly intolerant toward inevitable change.

Similarly, every language has been seen by academics as having been ruined ("bastardized", in the original meaning of the term...which has, itself, fittingly, been bastardized) in every era. It would follow that by this point we must be grunting at each other like apes, or else such observations were empty pique from crusty twits rigidly intolerant toward inevitable change.

There's no such thing as "bad" cultural change, because culture is change. By the time culture - even good culture! - congeals into tradition, it's ready for hospice care. For example, I can hardly listen to a note of jazz today. And compare the current crop of stiff, desiccated classical musicians to the lithe freshness of a Michal Hambourg.

Bad news for crusty twits: The Economist has finally ruled split infinitves to be ok. Those of us who have, all along, used language not to conform but to express can, I suppose, rejoice or whatever.


More on language pedantry:

A delightful video from Stephen Fry, reformed language pedant.

My original posting on the issue, including a link to a little-remembered but influential-at-the-time article by lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower.

1 comment:

Anonymous coward said...

"There's no such thing as "bad" cultural change" Leff

I beg to differ. A culture can be racist, misogynistic, dogmatic, ageist, and so on. A cultural change that encourages the above is detrimental to society.

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