Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

It’s the end of finals week here.  This is first finals week in years where I wasn’t staring at a stack of student essays to grade.  Not having any grading to do was pretty amazing, to be honest, but I did sort of miss the puzzling, and sometimes entertaining, errors in usage/word choice/phrasing that students make.

So, since I didn’t get to snicker at hurried, end-of-term, student essays with somewhat understandable mistakes, I kept a list of annoying word usages that I came across in more official/professional writing. I found enough that this could be a weekly thing.  These are a few I think most worthy of comment and debate:

Luddite (context: nearly every article about Thomas Pynchon allowing his catalog to be digitized): 

I’ll concede that arguing this one is a lost cause, and I’m all for the evolution of language and words.  However, as someone who has read extensively on the history of technology and industrialism, I can’t just let it slide without getting a little pedantic.  While the modern usage means something like: “A person who eschews, or even fears, modern technology,” the source of the term implies something a bit different (and there’s this word “technophobe” one might use instead).  The original Luddites weren’t against technology . . . not in the broad sense.  Luddites were rebelling against specific technologies in the textile industry that supplanted them as workers and, basically, made them beggars.  For right or wrong, there was a political and ethical motivation to the Luddites’ position that went beyond mere technophobia . . . a motivation that was a precursor to other workers movements.  It is worth remembering that.

(You may want to read Thomas Pynchon’s essay “Is it OK to be a Luddite?”)

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