It will probably not surprise the majority of you to learn that I am a philologist* both by training and by inclination. I am a lifetime holder of the Grammar Queen title. Of the three freelance projects I am currently rotating, the one I love best is translating a novel into English because I get to play around in two languages while trying to get my voice to sound like the author’s voice.

I love puns, as do many members of the Rubi Clan. Neki and I enjoy playing a game where we try to find equivalent idioms in Spanish and English. (Challenge: How do you say, “a nod’s a good as a wink to a blind man” in Spanish?)

And I enjoy reading about language. This exchange in the New York Times was particularly interesting, especially when it got to using that vs. which. I believe that I qualify as a pretty OK writer, if not a great one, and I know when I want to use one relative pronoun or the other, despite what MS Word seems to think. (I also know when I want to start a sentence with a conjunction for emphasis, or, as in the case of this paragraph, to break up a series of sentences starting with I. I also like to occasionally split an infinitive, just for fun. It’s what makes my voice mine.)

The debate between Garner and Green also got me thinking about the prescriptivist and descriptivist** approaches to grammar and usage, and where I fit in the continuum. When I taught English composition, I always told my students that they should follow the rules of usage carefully until they’d really internalized them; once they knew what they were doing, they could break as many of them as they liked, as long as they could tell me why they’d decided to. I guess that makes me a pragmatist.

*(Obsolete) one who loves learning and languages

**Funnily enough, the spellcheck on WordPress doesn’t like “descriptivist.” Philistine.

Advertisements