Lexicographer and editor Grant Barrett rips the Wall Street Journal a new one over their horriful trend/scare story today on the devolution of Americanlish and the rise of chat-speak and how the kids are destroying all things and whatevs. The story includes this choice bit: "'There used to be a time when people cared about how they spoke and wrote,' laments Robert Hartwell Fiske, who has written or edited several books on proper English usage, including one on overused words titled 'The Dimwit's Dictionary.'" Oh was there, ya slaggy old bit popper?
Robert Hartwell Fiske isn't a linguist. He's a self-involved curmudgeon—that's not a compliment, but a criticism of his intellectual limitations—who is the go-to guy for the same kind of dismissive claptrap you'll hear from anybody who's speaking on language outside their area of expertise.
Oh it goes on.
And then Fiske shows up in the comments on Barrett's weblog post about the article with this witty rejoinder: "Grant Barrett sounds terribly upset, but perhaps I would be, too, if I were not quoted in the Wall Street Journal." Ooh, neat, not only does Fiske not understand the operations of language conceptually, he's actually incapable of reading and interpreting words!