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"The Little Rock River Market's Ottenheimer Market Hall will be fully tenanted in November."

Kelley Bass asks "Is this the latest in the 'noun becomes verb' abomination?"

"If these thieves have any consciences maybe they would just drop them off at a church or anywhere."

John Wesley Hall writes: "Seems like a conscience should be treated like a collective noun and be singular here. At least it would sound better that way. At least to me." Me too.

"The stewards of standard English always say that dictionaries are overcapitulating, but never so dramatically as in 1961, with the publication of the notorious Webster's Third New International Dictionary. That volume's allowances for nonstandard English were heralded as a slide into irredeemable cultural gibbergabber. Even many years later, David Foster Wallace wrote one of his most irritating essays partly about his own revulsion toward Webster's Third, on the grounds that it included entries for abominations like irregardless." That's from a review of a new book, "The Story of Ain't" by David Skinner, about the controversy over Webster's Third. I remember it well.

In the 1960s, I worked for a newspaper whose managing editor boasted that the paper had no truck with Webster's Third, that he had instead bought all the Webster's Second he could find.

Webster's Third was a large step away from the prescriptive and proscriptive rules of English usage that most people had grown up with. The Third opted much more for the descriptive approach; that is, it recorded what people actually say, not just what some long-dead school teacher thought they should say. It recognized that the language is constantly changing. The title of Skinner's book is drawn from all the newspaper headlines based on the new dictionary's inclusion of ain't: "Saying Ain't Ain't Wrong," etc.

The argument between descriptivists and prescriptivists continues today. I seem to have a foot in each camp. Some change I accept, and some I do not. Fortunately, there aren't really any word police to take me away.

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