You have to admire Simon Heffer. He’s an associate editor at The Daily Telegraph and self-appointed guardian of the English language. He’s been fighting the good fight at the Telegraph for some time. His periodic style notes are both witty and trenchant. From the extracts that appeared in the Telegraph, it looks as if his new book, Strictly English, is more of the same.
I can’t help thinking he’s fighting a rearguard action, though. Word junkies, and I’m happy to admit that I am one, might thrill to the knowledge that there can only be a collision if both objects are in motion. Or that enormity does not actually mean enormous.
But for most people, even most writers, this is arcane (and believe me I checked this definition in the dictionary before using it) and possibly irrelevant information.
I’m all for correct grammar – we need to follow the same rules so that we can communicate.
But language is always evolving. The meanings of words change. If they are understood by their audience they are fulfilling their function.
As more people flex their writing muscles on the web, the pace of this evolution will intensify. More people will mould language to suit their needs.
And that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.