English is an Ever-Changing Language

Since I teach grammar and writing, a lot of people email me questions about the “rules.??? They remember learning something in school about whether you can split an infinitive and when to use “who??? rather “whom,??? but they’re sketchy on the details. If you have similar issues as you write your memoirs, you might take some comfort from a new book by Jack Lynch, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of “Proper??? English, From Shakespeare to “South Park.???

In reviewing the book for The New York Times, Neil Genzlinger calls it “an entertaining tour of the English language??? that “shows that many of the rules that editors and other grammatical zealots wave about like cudgels are arbitrary and destined to be swept aside as words and usage evolve.??? In other words, the rule that’s stumping today you will likely not even matter tomorrow.

Genzlinger quotes Lynch: “Too often, the mavens and pundits are talking through their hats. They’re guilty of turning superstitions into rules, and often their proclamations are nothing more than prejudice representing itself as principle.??? So if you’re holding yourself back by second-guessing every sentence, try not to be so hard on yourself. Write your autobiography with passion and purpose, and you’ll probably do fine.