Thousands of gullible students who were always told that their grammatical mastery proved they were smart don't like hearing that their little Paperback Gospel isn't worth the match it would take to burn it.
So Geoffrey Pullum's recent piece for The Chronicle Review of Higher Education has gotten a good amount of attention. Because he tore Strunk and White a new one. Actually "tore" isn't the right word. His argument and his claim was too fine and careful a critique. Rather, he took a scalpel and dexterously sliced a new one.*
Some of the gems from "50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice":
The book's toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar. It is often so misguided that the authors appear not to notice their own egregious flouting of its own rules. They can't help it, because they don't know how to identify what they condemn.
The book's contempt for its own grammatical dictates seems almost willful, as if the authors were flaunting the fact that the rules don't apply to them. But I don't think they are. Given the evidence that they can't even tell actives from passives, my guess would be that it is sheer ignorance.
as well as
It's sad. Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write "however" or "than me" or "was" or "which," but can't tell you why.
But he saves his sharpest barbs for the gnats who think they can bother him into admitting ignorance and defeat.
To the guy who said "my penis could type a better article": your girlfriend told me she doesn't think so.
No needless words there.
*Two new ones?