The spectre of common usage is one of the greatest bugaboos for amateur grammarians, who fear that if we accept a usage because everybody’s using it, we’re weakening the language. For example:
We have often noted that often repeated language and grammar errors seem to become “correct” usage. Wouldn’t it be weird if math used that philosophy? When enough people said 2+2=5, it would! It would still equal 4, of course, but it would also equal 5.
I’ve heard this “2 + 2” kind of argument many times. It’s a false analogy, a virulent argument that seems reasonable but is wrong at its very core, and is wrong in multiple ways. It misrepresents both language and math, and that makes me mad, because the two things I’ve spent substantial portions of my academic life on are math and language. So let me tell you why this argument is rubbish…
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