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David Foster Wallace: Authority and American Usage - Essay Example

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David Wallace’s Democracy, English and the Wars over Usage An intelligent and humorous consideration of the English language, and the publication of a dictionary on modern American usage The English language is a complex thing, used in many variations throughout the world, with little change and variations in what is accepted and recognized depending on where you examine…
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David Foster Wallace: Authority and American Usage
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"David Foster Wallace: Authority and American Usage"

Download file to see previous pages His essay Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage (2001) is no exception to this trend. Wallace jumps from formal descriptions and considerations of the English language to joking side comments about those who focus on the specifics of the language and the correctness of the way that people talk and write. His essay considers the English language as it is used in America, through SNOOTS, the publications of different modern and traditional dictionaries, Descriptive and Prescriptive linguists and the way that the use of the English language is continually under debate. Wallace’s approach is by no means usual. Throughout his essay, he produces many academic arguments, yet these are interlaced with humor, sometimes subtle, sometimes glaring to such an extent that the readers are sometimes unsure what exactly it is they are reading. Is Wallace’s essay an academic discussion enhanced by humor and side-stories, or is it a collection of personal views and anecdotes, often self-derogatory? In truth, it is both, and through this unusual mechanism, Wallace is able to draw the reader’s attention, amusement, and considerations throughout the duration, somewhat substantial, of his article. ...
He uses the made up term to describe people, including himself, who are interested in the correctness of the English language. According to Wallace, SNOOTs are “the Few, the Proud, the Appalled at Everyone Else”. The repeated use of the word throughout the essay serves almost as a brake pedal to prevent either the reader or Wallace himself from becoming too academically minded. Wallace’s humor continues in the footnotes, where one would normally references or notes. Instead, the footnotes are anecdotes, explanations or tongue-in-cheek elaborations on the content of the essay. For example, several paragraphs follow a thought experiment relating the descriptions perspective to that of wearing skirts versus pants for males. Wallace’s footnote for the section simply says, “the skirt-in-school scenario was not personal stuff, FYI”. This approach, although it can hardly be considered academic, serves his academic purpose by once again holding the attention of the reader and reinforcing the ideas that he relates. After all, it is much easier to understand and remember a funny and interesting story than it is to recall a set of dull facts or scientific discourse. The subject of the essay, as Wallace himself describes in the second paragraph, is the release of Bryan Garner’s ADMAU three years earlier. Garner’s dictionary is a comprehensive guide to the way that the English language is and should be used in America. In this respect it is much like its predecessors, however, Wallace focuses on the way that Garner tackled issues of style, ideology and rhetoric. Garner is the sole writer and researcher for ADMAU; the manner in which Garner introduces the book and its style throughout is indicative of not attempting to be an ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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