Views of grammar, views of life

From Proper English: Myths and Misunderstandings about Language by Ronald Wardhaugh, p. 179:
“What we have are two groups of people who care about the language but care about it for different reasons and in very different ways. In the words of John Sherwood in an article entitled “Dr. Kinsey and Professor Fries” in College English, which discussed the “old” and “new” grammarians: “What the two grammars really reflect is two ways of looking at language, two ideals of language, and perhaps in the end two ways of life.” Mario Pei expressed much the same sentiment in the Saturday Review in commenting on the storm that greeted the publication of Webster’s Third: “here was far more to the controversy than met the eye, for the battle was not merely over language. It was over a whole philosophy of life.”
At issue is who gets to control the language, who sets the standards. In Paradigms Lost [John] Simon declares that English belongs to those “who have striven to learn it properly,” which, of course, begs the question in that word properly. Moreover, he tells us that we should preserve whom if for no other reason than to show that we can force people to learn it, because without it they will remain ‘ignorant.’ Simon believes that only an elite care or should that be cares? about the language.
Wardhaugh goes on to quote Simon on his view of society. Having watched Simon once on the Dick Cavett Show expound on his views by saying he wasn’t talking about people “so stupid they don’t know the difference between the nominative and accusative cases.” This from a man who grew up speaking two case languages (Croation and German) and learning well two others (Latin and Ancient Greek) and who benefitted from an excellent education. Truly an elitist.
While I don’t consider myself an elitist, being congenitally and socially incapable of belonging to the elite myself, I do appreciate Wardhaugh’s “correct” use of the expression “beg the question”; it is now used in the sense of “to raise the question”, not its original meaning (from the Latin ‘petitio principii’)

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