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Saturday, October 09, 2004
  There are too many books in my life already, David Crystal, but I guess there's always room for one more : Big news (to me, anyway). Finally saw evidence in print of English's most ellusive contraction, "there're." I'm going to keep reading this David Crystal guy, he's got my attention now.

Another thing that I like about Crystal's book, (formerly known as "The English Language, 2nd Ed.," now known as "The Book Which Has Finally Ended Brian's Four-Year Quest To Prove The Existence Of The English Language's Most Ellusive Contraction, There're"), is his genuinely descriptive approach. Much has made of the contrast between the prescriptive and descriptive approaches to the study of language. Essentially, it boils down to this: a prescriptive writer on the English language would tell me that I should have used "that" rather than "which" in my new title for Crystal's book (b/c I'm using the info afterwards to help define which book I mean). A descriptive writer would tell me that 99% of English speakers make no distinction btwn which and that, other than the fact that some people think of which as a more formal word.

Maybe I'm just reading the wrong books, but in my experience, 95% of the ones out there follow the (more annoying) prescriptive approach. TIt's so common that it starts to rub off on you after a while even if you don't start off that way. So, for that reason I've found it great to have Crystal's (descriptive) book to dip into every now and then. Plus, during idle moments I like to turn to page 25, the "there're" page, and just look at it.

(UPDATE: there's more to say about the prescriptive/descriptive divide, I've decided upon re-reading this post, but let me think first.)
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