It's not the electronic media after all

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A few days ago Geoff Pullum reviewed an Economist article that relied heavily on the recent work of Naomi Baron. The article cited her as saying that cell phones, pagers, laptops, and wireless devices are the weapons of mass language destruction that we see everywhere around us. But those of us who read newspapers these days know better. The real cause of linguistic chaos is right under our noses. It's the New York Times crossword puzzles, that's what it is! In terms of language correctness, almost anything goes there.

Take punctuation, for example. Correct answers to the Times puzzles require no apostrophes to mark the important distinction between "its" from "it's" or even to indicate possessive nouns. No correctly hyphenated words are permitted. And even though you know better, have you ever been able to use a comma, colon, semicolon, quotation mark, virgule, or question mark in a New York Times crossword puzzle? No, you haven't! Not even periods after abbreviations. No spaces between words in phrases. No dashes in front of suffixes. How's that for creeping whateverism?

If not the Times, who can we depend on to save us? Geoff got it right on the schnoz when he said that the whateverist nomads are not our real problem. The top newspaper in America is already abandoning the orthographic distinguishers that protect Western civilization from falling into utter confusion.

We're in deep trouble and it's time to do something.

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