Language is a living thing.
Our language is constantly undergoing change. Since the first reliable English Dictionary, compiled by Samuel Johnson and published in 1755, there has been a constant tension between strict "prescriptivists" and "permissivists." Are "ain't" and "irregardless" real words?
In truth, dictionaries are reactive and largely passive repositories. Once a definition of meaning and usage is established, however, it takes the force of persuasive use to bring about a change. Some words simply die for want of usage.
Language is slippery. The implications and "spin" of certain words or phrases change over time.
Is this a good thing? Would we all be better off if our language was always fixed, if no one was ever "allowed" to break the rules?
New words come into being to describe new objects, or new processes and relationships. New technologies breed special vocabularies.
For communication requiring greater precision, mathematics furnishes another kind of language.
Does common discourse suffer as a result of the decay of proper usage?
I often feel that common misuse of words or phrases, which may occur as a result of laziness, or haste, or simple ignorance, is probably not a legitimate generator of useful, meaningful language.
Lazy thinking generates poor speaking and writing, and it works the other way around. The more we all misuse our language, the less effective our speaking and thinking become.
From time to time, the Compass Rose will note examples of bad English, in the never-ending fight for Truth, Coherence and Literacy!
1. A "whole n'other". This is a false contraction of "a whole other" or "another whole" but it's ungrammatical. It's a stupid mistake which has begun to take root in common speech.
2. "Mischievious". This is not a word. The correct word is "mischievous". There's no "i" after the "v.". Probably people think the word works like devious, but they're wrong.
3. "Massive" as meaning large in size or extent. Massive means DENSE, not large. Lead is massive. Teakwood is massive. A mountain or a large crowd or a glacier are not examples of massive phenomena.
4. "Little, tiny" as a compound adjectival phrase. This, or "small, little" is naively redundant; yet perfectly intelligent people will consistently use these phrases, when they know they're wrong. Why?
5. "In regards to". This phrase simply isn't English. "With regard to" or "in regard to" are perfectly acceptable, but "regards" is only appropriate as the plural form of regard for a thing or person. "Warmest regards." "Give my regards to Broadway." Smart people use "in regards to" all the time, but they should stop.