A New Shield Against Grammar Naziism: Science! – Facts So Romantic

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Over his career, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has taken on a wide range of research and writing subjects, and his work has provoked big debates in most, if not all, of them. His latest book, The Sense of Style, is about another farflung topic—grammar—and his iconoclastic opinions have, predictably, drawn fire (and ire) from people with more traditional views of the field. In a Guardian column spun off from the book, he advances one argument that clashes with what you’ll hear from almost any grammar guide:

I am told that all snowflakes are unique, and so they may be under a microscope, but frankly, they all look the same to me. Conversely, each of the proverbial two peas in a pod is unique if you squint hard enough through a magnifying glass. Does this mean that nothing is unique, or does it mean that everything is unique? The answer is neither: the concept “unique” is meaningful only after you specify which qualities are of interest to you and which degree of resolution or grain size you’re applying. Calling something “quite unique” or “very unique” implies that the item differs from…
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