Tuesday, May 8, 2007

common errors

The concept of errors in English usage is a fuzzy one. Language experts like to distinguish between two opposed approaches to the subject: theoretically prescriptionists work from rigid rules and traditions and seek to impose their views of correctness on the writing and speaking public, while descriptionists simply note the prevailing patterns of writers and speakers and report their results without in any way judging them.
But in fact it is not so easy to distinguish between these two approaches to usage: all prescriptionists rely heavily on usage patterns to develop their prescriptions and are willing to make exceptions to general “rules”; and even the most laissez-faire descriptionist will admit that “hte” is a typographical error for “the,” that “Heineken remover” is based on a mishearing of “Heimlich maneuver,” and that “perverbial” is not just a variant spelling of “proverbial”—it’s a mistake.
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