Tuesday, February 09, 2010

blame game: old as sin

The seventeenth-century grammarian, Alexander Gil, at one time schoolmaster to young John Milton, was convinced that English was going to Hell in a handcart. Being precluded, for obvious reasons, from blaming the Yanks, the trade unions, the comprehensive schools or the BBC, he blamed Geoffrey Chaucer, then comfortably in his grave for more than two hundred years. Chaucer, it seems, had by his practice promoted the vicious habit of using French words.

-- Walter Nash, An Uncommon Tongue: The Uses and Resources of English 185-86 (1992).

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