Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 22:33:21 -0700


Subject: Re: Survey of e-usage

I'll jump in in support of Joan Cook's and Carl Berkhout's notes on the

proposed usage survey. As long as it is open-minded in trying (a la Leonard

of ancient memory) to find out what the prevailing usage is, as a basis for

recommending standardization in FORMAL PUBLICATION and REFERENCES, I think

it is something that, as committed linguistic populists, we should strongly

support. [Of course, if it starts out with a set of preconceived norms that

the survey is a smokescreen for imposing, then I'll raise the banner against


But just as no one is going to look over your shoulder and censor

your letters to your mom or best friend, this is not an effort to set up an

automatic electronic censor on e-mail messages. American Speech is certainly

not open to idiosyncratic indulgence in spelling or grammar. Things haven't

been that way since the 18th century. While we may lament the loss of options

for individual creativity, if you are trying to use a Net search engine to

run down references to something, it would not help if users asserting their

God-given rights had spelled everything half a dozen ways. There are a few

things like DROUTH that I will never surrender on, the Union Army be damned --

we know much more about them in Texas than anyplace else can claim to. But if

I am putting out a formal publication on the Net or the Web or whatever may

eventuate, I would prefer to have some editorial standards to conform to, just

as when I submit papers to different journals I have to conform (grudgingly) to

their different bibliographic styles. Even psycholinguistic research shows

that it is easier and faster to read text that follows normalized spelling

conventions. In the information age, idiosyncracy in areas like this becomes

, alas, dysfunctional. If you ever try to do much searching on library or

other databases, you'll appreciate why.

--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]