The Atlantic

The Futility of Standing Athwart Language Yelling ‘Stop!’

John McWhorter expects linguistic norms to change even faster in coming years—and he argues that we can be less bothered by attendant demands than we are today.
Source: Tim Wimborne / Reuters

In American culture these days, the linguistic terrain is constantly shifting, says the Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter. Even people who think of themselves as enlightened, morally scrupulous actors feel that there are constant demands to adopt new, unfamiliar linguistic habits or to jettison words or constructions they’ve grown used to their entire lives.

He sympathizes. He generally dislikes change. But “we need to get used to the linguistic insecurity I think all of us are suffering these days,” he argued in a lecture Monday, “and open up to the fact that part of being a concerned, conscious speaker of American English in these times is to get used to constant change

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