User:Andrewa/purism

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Purism is an insistence on the traditionally correct way of doing things, especially of language... well, correct according to whom? Answer: Correct according to the purist, of course. So that definition doesn't really do the term justice. It's itself correct enough, but it carries an implication that is not at first sight obvious, specifically:

Purism is almost invariably in error. That is the logical consequence of the definition, and the experience of life.

A purist may (and will) sometimes do the right thing. But that's by luck not by logic. Their rationale is invalid, based on a faulty reading of what is correct. An invalid argument can have a true conclusion, and as an instance of this, an argument based on purism can have a true conclusion. The problem is rather, there's nothing to stop it from having a false conclusion, either.

There are no guarantees either way. If the purist were always wrong, then (as C. Northcote Parkinson pointed out long ago) they would be a valuable person indeed. But unfortunately, purism is not a guaranteed way of producing error. It is rather a worthless way of producing unpredictable and useless discussion and results. Which also makes it all the more difficult. The purists can and will say "look we were right last time, ergo we are right this time too". Aaaargh.

Purists suffer from the phenomenon explored on my off-wiki (all right, on-another-wiki for the purists) page how to reveal yourself without really trying. They assume that others don't bother to read the rules, or at least don't read them particularly carefully or objectively. Why do they assume this? It's very simple. That's how their own minds work.

Or in other words, the more someone insists that you haven't read the rules carefully and objectively, the less likely they are to have done so themselves. This applies both to Wikipedia policies and guidelines and the rules of English grammar. (Yes, modern linguistics still studies the rules of English grammar, just not prescriptively. That is left to authorities that define a standard language. And English doesn't have any such authority.)

Don't be a purist.

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