have rejected it to satisfy the demands of their discipline.nOtherwise, how can the language critics’ satire go unrecognized,nwith its typical devices of humor, wit, hyperbole,ncaricature, mimicry, and persona or mask?nSecond, the linguists seem very proud of their relatively newnand growing “science” and seem to feel resentful when thengeneral public ignores them by putting its faith in variousnlanguage critics. Employing the scientific method, with statisticsnand charts, phonological symbols, and tree diagrams, thenlinguists sneer at the practical insight and intuition of even thenbest and most experienced users of English, such as RussellnBaker, John Ciardi, Marc Connelly, Malcolm Cowley, RalphnEllison, Paul Morgan, Langston Hughes, Katherine AnnenPorter, Leo Rosten, Jean Stafford, Wallace Stegner, and AllennTate (all from the usage panel oi American Heritage Dictionary).nAfter all, these people are merely good writers; what rightnhave they to opinions about language? Have they conductednfield interviews? Have they mastered the scholarly literature onnlinguistics?nThird, a surprising number of linguists have an unexaminednfaith in the criterion of usage for deciding problems of linguisticnchoice. Some of these “usagists” tell us to follow the usage ofngreat writers; some only the settled usage of great writers; somentell us to follow the usage of the upper class (whatever that maynbe in the United States); some the usage of magazine writersnfor Harper’s and Atlantic; some the usage of college graduatesn(whether of Berkeley or of Sasquatch State College); and somentell us to follow the usage of the people, whatever that maynmean. The criterion of usage, an object of adoration tonlinguists, turns out to be a false idol.nFinally, many linguists interested in usage show a remarkablenintellectual naivete about the relationship between thendescriptive and the prescriptive, the is and the ought. Both Friesnand Hall take it for granted that what most people say or writenhas automatically decided what people should say or write.nHall’s definition of “good” language is quite behavioristic:n”language which gets the desired effect with the least frictionnand difficulty for its user.” I suppose he is referring to situationsnsuch as that in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 when the hungrynMajor de Coverley arrives at the mess hall to discover thatnCaptain Black requires the signing of a loyalty oath beforenanyone is fed. Major de Coverley simply barks: “Gimmeneat!” and gets what he wants. But language is used in life andnliterature for more than such elementary situations. Can Hallnuse his simplistic formula to evaluate the Gettysburg Address,nSamuel Johnson’s letter to the Earl of Chesterfield, or HenrynJames’s later style? Hall insists that what he calls “aestheticnconsiderations” in language are totally subjective and that nonone has the right to offer advice or judgments about them.nWhat aesthetic considerations have to do with getting then”desired effect” is left unexplored.nDespite these would-be scientists who have rejected the artnof literary interpretation, trusting unthinkingly the criterion ofnusage, who have unphilosophically assumed that is determinesnought, the great majority of thoughtful people will continuenwishing to speak and write well, not just passably or acceptably.nThey buy the books of the language critics not because theynhave been panicked into insecurity about their use of language,nbut because in the world of thought, feeling, language, andnvalues, they know they should strive for excellence. Quinn maynclaim to admire the vitality of typical Watergate metaphors, butnmost of us will regard as cliches to bite the bullet, the bottomnline, to stroke someone, to play hard ball, to kick ass, and tonopen a can of worms. Most of us will also reject Daniels’nparadoxical defense of Orwellian political obfuscation on thengrounds that there is no essential or necessary connectionnbetween thought and language, since it’s the thinking that’snbad, not the language.nHaving surveyed the arguments of the linguists against thenlanguage critics, I am struck with a kind of melancholy. It is sadnto see a number of highly trained scholars who can recordndialects, compile dictionaries, and generalize about the structurenof language, unable to understand what language criticsnare doing and what that activity is worth. Unwilling to readnwith accuracy, they mechanically react with contempt andnanger. I once had a teacher, a very good one, who every nownand then indulged in a temper tantrum, which embarrassed us.nIt is similarly embarrassing to find such irrationality amongnexperts in a discipline from which we have learned so muchnabout language. Even more important is what the linguistsndeprive us of by their tantrums. We are all surely aware that thenlanguage critics, however penetrating their insights, cannotnalways be right. Who but the linguist should be more fit,npotentially at least, to rationally evaluate their advice and helpnguide us toward excellence in language? But in their ruthlessnand hostile attitude toward the language critics, the linguists arenfailing us, even as they squander their knowledge and ability.nLnGreat Topics, Great Issues!nCatch up on the CHRONICLESnyou’ve missed by orderingnfrom the following collectionnof recent back issues.nTitle Qty.nRestoring The Constitution —Seizing Power from Judges,nCongressmen, and other Usurpers Dec. ’87—Clyde Wilson asks, “Whatnhave they done to our laws?”; Barry Shain on Conservative Commons andnKyle E. McSlarrow on Judicial Editing and Congressional Inaction, plusnmuch more. $2.50nn American Empire Nov. ’87—Anthony Harrigan examines “The WarnYears”; William R. Hawkins studies Military History and Erik von Kuehnelt-nLeddihn looks at the “Empire at Europe’s End”. $2,50nn A Latin America Aug. ’87—Wayne Lutton on Crime, AIDS, andnImmigration; Odie Faulk on Mexican Aggression; and managing editor,nMomcilo Selic explores the land of the Incas. $2,50nn Cultural Conservatism—Reassembling the Right after Reagan Julyn’87—Steven Goldberg on Science v. the Conservative Mind; AnthonynHarrigan on Nostalgia; and Editor Thomas Fleming, on CulturalnConservatism. $2.50 ___,^_nn Men Without Women June ’87—Andrew Lytle on Adam’s curse; ForrestnMcDonald on Ben Franklin’s revenge; plus astronauts, athletes, Oliver Northnand other real men. $2.50 _____nD Singers of Tales: or How to Rescue Storytelling from Sex andnBureaucrats May ’87—V. S. Naipaul on being a writer; Frederick Turner onnrescuing story from history; and Thomas Fleming on thrice-told tales. $2.50 _____n• Manufacturing Opinions April ’87—Stephen R. L. Clark on the “right” tonan opinion; Irvin L. Horowitz on academic publishing; and Thomas Moinarnon the failure of higher education. $2.50n* Postage and handling included in issue price. Total amount due _nName_ .Address.nCity_ _ State. . Zip_nChronicles • 934 North Main Street • Rockford, IL • 61103nnnAmt.nCBI787nJANUARY 1988 / 27n