English grammar in US - reply

Jacques Rifkind Muisca at AOL.COM
Tue Jun 25 22:01:57 CDT 1996

Robin Leach wrote, in part:

>When 85% of the people write, "It don't make no difference.", am I being
>pedantic to hold out for "It doesn't make any difference?"

No, you aren't being pedantic. The problem, as Stephen Pinker points out in
his "The Language Instinct," is that most of the so called "language mavens"
who decry the supposed deterioration of the language are usually attacking
spoken language. If some one says "it don't make no difference"--you
understand exactly what they mean. In fact, the "double negative" is NEVER
interpreted as a positive (contrary to schoomarms), and is very common in
other languages (the "ne...pas" of French, for example). Written language
requires more precision because it cannot be supplemented by gesture,
intonation and perception of audience reaction (allowing correction in case
one is not understood).

 I think, however, that many of us who write "their problem" rather than "his
or her problem" do so not naively, but rather clearly cognizant of the
reasons for that decision. Standards change in reaction to changes in
society, values and sometimes just the beauty or power of innovation (both
towards more complexity and more simplicity) in the language itself.

I think this discussion is relevant to taxonomy, as any biologist who has had
reviewers object to his or her choice of a particular word or phrase can


Gena Gulamentum

More information about the Taxacom mailing list