The data are annoying

I love the Language Log: smart people having entertaining discussions about how words work. The nice thing about the site is that the discussions are often observational and non-prescriptive. The writers are naturalists, not prudes. They wander through the living world with a butterfly net and a notebook. Language is a thing that happens, the Académie française notwithstanding. Language rises and merges in mesmerizing patterns.

The prissy righteousness of rule-o-philes makes me crazy. Grammatical taxidermy can put a moose head on the wall, but it misses the moose. So I was glad to see this article point out that language fetishism slows down communication and makes us stupid:

“The data are”: How fetishism makes us stupid

Show me the moose! And remember, if you can’t datum, join ’em.



1. The word ERRATA appearing in this post appears in error as there is only one entry in the list of errata. It should be replaced with the word ERRATUM.

2. As there are now, in fact, two items on the list of errata, the first erratum is in error and the spelling should stand.

3. There is no third erratum. Please stop.