Hello there! And welcome to Language Hippie, a new blog I have set up as a voice for language celebration and tolerance. I am a linguist, and a language descriptivist -- a fancy term that means I approach language as a subject to be observed and described, rather than as something out of control that needs to be tamed. Descriptivists like me are scientists, and we study the world as it already is. When it comes to language, that means that we don't use words like "improper" or "ungrammatical" to describe the things that people say on purpose. Instead, we just try to describe what was said, and speculate about why they said it -- the rules to people's internal grammar, so to speak.
Descriptivism's opposite is an approach known as prescriptivism, and it's how most people seem to view language. Prescriptivists are like doctors, prescribing what should and should not be done by their patient. Language prescriptivists tend to view language as a system of laws: there is a single right way of doing things, and anyone who doesn't follow the rules is speaking incorrectly. That's the view that foreign language instructors take, and with good reason. But a prescriptivist attitude is by definition a judgmental one, and it is unfortunately often a condescending and mocking one to boot.
And it is also very common in the world today. A Facebook group entitled "I judge you when you use poor grammar" currently boasts over 400,000 members, and a Google search for the phrase "I am a grammar nazi" yields 250,000 hits. If that last factoid doesn't strike you as odd, consider how rare it is to hear someone self-identify as a Nazi in any other context. The phrase "grammar nazi" likely came about due to the Nazi Party's reputation for extreme intolerance and rule-following, but it has been embraced as a label by many in the prescriptivist crowd. As anyone online is probably already aware, harshly judging other people's language is rather fashionable today.
It is this attitude that I wish to counter, in my own little corner of the internet. I am not here to judge your language -- I'm here to embrace it. A descriptivist birdwatcher doesn't yell at a penguin when the creature fails to fly; he adjusts his preconceptions (if necessary) of what being a bird entails. And if he's like me, he's fascinated by this new diversity he's discovered.
So welcome to the blog. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions of future topics you'd like to see me cover, feel free to leave a reply. "Correct" spelling and grammar not required.