The five stages of language change

When I am in doubt about a point of style or grammar, first I always see what Pam Peters has to say. Her Cambridge Guide to English Usage miraculously foresees almost every question I want answered, and offers sensible suggestions based on Australian usage.

But I am also a big fan of Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage, the third edition of which I received last week.

The most useful addition made in Modern American Usage‘s 3rd edition is its rating of evolving words and usage not as correct/incorrect but on a scale from new usage to universal acceptance:

Stage 1: A new form emerges as an innovation among a small minority of the language community, perhaps displacing a traditional usage.

Stage 2: The form spreads to a significant fraction of the language community but remains unacceptable in standard usage. Continue reading “The five stages of language change”