Friday, October 28, 2005

If It's Not in the Oxford English Dictionary, Is It Really a Word?

Scene: The bathtub. Sean, as usual, was using the washcloth for something other than its intended purpose. This time, it was some kind of musical instrument.

Sean: It's a budja-chik! (Proceeds to strum the washcloth, plastered across his chest.)

Allie (indignant): No! It's a cloth-cloth!

Sean: No, budja-chik!

Allie: NOOOO, Sean! CLOTH-CLOTH!!! (Dissolves into tears).

Sean (unrepentant): Budja-chik! Budja-chik!

So, on the one hand we have Sean, championing the descriptivist cause: you know, language belongs to the people, not to some arbitrarily designated group of so-called grammar experts. Allie, meanwhile, espouses what can be characterized as a proscriptive point of view: something along the lines of "there are certain inviolable language rules that are not up to debate by the rabble."

The winner? To be decided...