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[Easy Chair]

Semantic Drift

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Regarding the purported rules of En­glish syntax, we tend to divide into mutually hostile camps. Hip, open-­minded types relish the never-­ending transformations of the way we speak and write. They care about the integrity of our language only insofar as to ensure that we can still roughly understand one another. In the opposite corner glower the curmudgeons. These joyless, uptight authoritarians are forever muttering about clunky concepts such as “the unreal conditional” that nobody’s ever heard of.

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