thesis has some credibility. Franklinnplayed his cards in Paris so that, no matternwhich side won, Britain or America,nBenjamin Franklin would not lose. Thatnhe essentially succeeded is a remarkablentestament to a brilliant, worldly man.nThat he was capable of crime should notncause surprise: it was long ago observednthat many shrewd criminals were mennof genius. That he was a genius is, ofncourse, incontrovertible. That he did, innthe long run, elevate America and helpnto create the United States is true. Greatncredit is due to Franklin. To write thenStrange Voices in AmericanDennis E. Baron: Grammar andnGood Taste: Reforming the AmericannLanguage; Yale University Press;nNew Haven, CT.nRobert Pattison: On Literacy: ThenPolitics of the Word from Homer tonthe Age of Rock; Oxford UniversitynPress; New York.nStephen Arons: Compelling Belief:nThe Culture of American Schooling;nNew Press/McGraw-Hill; New York.nby Gordon M. PradlnMost pronouncements about Englishnand literacy today, however wellintentioned,nend up producing muddle,nnot clarity and accuracy. For all the effortsnto straighten out education andnpublic discourse, our language and ourncitizens’ command of it continue to benperceived by many as descending into anstate of hopeless decay. In the face ofnbureaucrats, advertisers, and television,nparents and teachers stand helpless tondefend proper linguistic standards, andnit is common to call the latter’s competenceninto question. Yet despite 200nDr. Pradl recently edited Prospect andnRetrospect: Selected Essays of JamesnBritton.nentire truth would not diminish thatncredit, but it would acknowledge thatnyouthful poverty had given him an exaggeratednidea of the value of wealth, thatnfondness for the other sex sometimesnled him into folly. The admission ofnhuman defects need not make a greatnman an object of scorn. The duty of anbiographer is to tell the truth and tonmake the virtues of fallible men clear tonlater generations. This Clark has failed tondo. He chose, instead, to follow the mendaciousnpath of the American academy,nand in so doing wasted his opportunity. Dnyears of worry and jeremiads, our languagencontinues to function, at timesneven giving birth to sanity and eloquence.nSo what is all the fuss about? We mightnwell ask: What are the real issues beingncontested, and why has America beennleft with such an indelible legacy of linguisticninsecurity?nNot surprisingly, power, authority,nand social meaning underlie the debate.nBecause language is so intimately tied tonour sense of self and our systems of valuesnas well as to our perception of others,nit is almost impossible to conceive ofnour words in terms of their purely communicativenfunction. We speak and immediatelynreveal a wealth of informationnabout ourselves—our social and geographicalnorigins, our education, evennperhaps our occupation and state ofnmind. Our words and how we use themnrepresent our identity, out in the opennfor everyone to see. Only later is considerationngiven to our intended message.nSo, in a sense, the batde is a personalnone—those worrying about their languagenare really worrying about theirnpresentation of self, about what othersnwill think.nSuch individual social dramas, however,nare always played out on a muchnlarger stage, where linguistic markersnserve to establish group membership. Innthis arena the stakes are high, for noth­nnning less than “correct” behavior is beingndetermined. Whose vision of reality andnculture will dominate our lives? It is importantnto recognize our linguistic vulnerability:nwith such an investment innappearances, in sounding “right,” wencan easily leave substance behind. Anynnumber of perversions can be justifiednwhen the normal lexicon has been takennover by those who would subvert ourntraditional system of meanings. Freedom,njustice, liberty, equality—^all these neednprecise definitions to which we can hold.nOtherwise they can end up serving asnanyone’s slogans; yet from an individualnvantage point these shifts seem to occurnbeyond our control. And sometimes wenallow our words to be taken over bynothers and inevitably our actions follownin a simUar pattern of betrayal.nLinguistic insecurity provides a fertilensetting for those who would imposentheir definitions upon us. Commonnsense among the educated ought to prevailnin matters of appropriate languagenuse, but instead wrongheaded and artificialnmodels of how a language works,nchanges, and is acquired have come tondominate our thinking. In Grammarnand Good Taste, Dennis Baron tracesnthe history of those who have taken itnupon themselves to manage and reformnthe American language. Not surprisingly,nit is a curious story, a chronicle of contradictorynstatements from the pastn(which continue to haunt the present)nby the prominent and the not-so-prominentnwho would control our behaviornby controlling our grammar.nThe chauvinism of an emerging nationnexplains a number of the early proposalsnfor altering our language. An English thatnwas mutually coded and understoodnwould form a common bond among allncitizens and provide an important supportnfor trade, commerce, and the developmentnof participatory democratic institutions.nFurther, differentiations fromnthe mother tongue in England, both innsound and form, were dramatic ways ofndemonstrating American patriotism andnindependence. The importance of languagento social cohesion cannot be un-n••MIHSOnAugttstl983n