The Value of Linguistic Fossils

Nicholas C. Rossis

English language meme | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Image: memecenter.com

The English language is a strange one, for sure, thanks to the Isles’ long history of war and conquest. Each wave of conquerors left its mark on the language, from the Romans to the Vikings and Normans.

Antiquated rules can cast long shadows, as seen even today by certain grammar rules. A typical example is the split infinitives one, invented by 19th-century grammarians who felt the proper model for English was Latin, and in Latin, infinitive-splitting is impossible. Another one is the “don’t end a sentence with a preposition” “rule,” invented by the English poet John Dryden in 1672. Dryden probably based his objection on a bogus comparison with — you guessed it — Latin, where such constructions don’t exist (you can find more such examples on my post, My 4 Golden Rules of Writing).

Anachronisms, Clichés, and Retronyms

As Hunting for fossils in the quirks of language

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