Monday, March 19, 2012

Grammar, go back where you belong!

As a person who fills a lot of blog space pondering the right way and wrong way to communicate in English, I often find myself wondering what is the right word to describe all that stuff I ponder about.

I label it in my blog as "language," but that term doesn't adequately indicate all the nitpicking, preaching, and value-judging I do regarding the use of words. "Grammar" is an oft-used catch-all, but even if I don't understand the exact technical definition of grammar (it's apparently even more specific than I imagined), I know that spelling does not fall under it. So what is the word for that mythical all-inclusive English rulebook?

Apparently other English lovers are wondering the same thing, and apparently there isn't an answer.

For example, see "It's All Grammar," a blog post by Arnold Zwicky, who claims that the only thing all these things have in common is that they are cause for annoyance by some people when they are misused. Well, he's the professor of linguistics, not me (OK, OK, "I"), but I daresay that if grammar and syntax and spelling and usage all have rules, and they all have to do with written language, then they have at least two things in common.

So maybe not everyone considers every rule to be hard and fast. And certainly different institutions have different rules (we call those house rules), but that doesn't mean that they don't all apply to the same game.

And if the best term for them proposed so far is garmmra, I feel quite free to invent my own term, which will be suitably pompous and lengthy. When I figure it out, I will let you know....

And I hope I figure it out soon, so I can ease my conscience and stop using the word "grammar" where it doesn't belong!