Quotation by Theodore M. Bernstein

In matters of usage there are two extremes. At the extreme right are the purists, the standpatters, the rigid traditionalists who brook little or no change and who go by the rules—as many rules as they can recall or invent. They may not speak or write brilliantly, but they are grammatically unassailable—except when they forget some rule or misinterpret one.... At the extreme left are the permissivists, the heretics who argue that there is no such thing as "correct" usage. They maintain that usage is what people say, but they neglect to disclose what people they are talking about—most people in general or most intelligent people or most educated people or most writing people or what. Oddly enough, despite the loose approach of the permissivists, who have made some headway in the schools, there is evidence that people do crave authority in matters of language, they do ask for rules and rulings. They do not seem to appreciate the freedom that the permissivists are so eager to bestow upon them.
Theodore M. Bernstein (b. 1904), U.S. columnist. Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer's Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage, prologue, Simon & Schuster (1971).
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