The English Evolution

Posted September 8, 2021 by Alyssa Stahr

I was born to be an editor. It’s not just my job, it’s been a part of who I am since I turned a book rightside up before I could even think about beginning to read. Just as my career as an editor has evolved, so has my love and inquisitive nature for the English language. Just as being an editor lends itself to having a style, a rigidity, and certainly a set of grammar pet peeves, there’s also a world turning beneath our feet full of change and rule breaking activity. 

I’ll never forget in 2014 when the AP’s brass loosened their rule on “more than” versus “over.” The reason I’ll never forget this change in particular is due to the hilarious reactions when the announcement was made in person at the annual American Copy Editors Society meeting in Las Vegas. Some people tweeted “over my dead body.” Others noted they heard an “audible gasp” in the room when the change was announced. I’m sure there were some very drunk journalists on the Strip that evening, having had their world rocked by this declaration.

One of my favorite podcasts/Facebook pages that I frequent is Grammar Girl, not only because I can nerd out with her and learn new rules or changes in our complicated and beautiful language, but also because she gives the root origins of words and phrases and the “why” things are the way they are. I have taught English to ESL students of all ages and regions, and sometimes that’s the toughest part of teaching. Answering the “why.” Why do some people say pop instead of soda? Why are water fountains bubblers in the North? Why do we have so many darn phrasal verbs that are just unexplainable or have five different definitions? 

Delving into the changes and questions of my native language is just as fun for me as creating style guides because they always lead to rousing conversations and they are always “living” documents. We no longer speak Shakespearean, but type any sentence into the Shakespearean Translator and you get a hilarious take on the way we probably spoke hundreds of years ago. Another recent favorite popped up again on my newsfeed: Hemingway writes The Baby-Sitter Club, a popular book from my preteen days. And, in 10 years we’ll be laughing at the way we spoke via text today versus in the future, amirite? 

Even I go through my colloquial changes; what was once rad, hot or fetch may now be something totally different. What’s the biggest change in speech or writing that you’ve come across, and what was the influence in your life?

Tags: , , , , ,


Let us know your pursuits. We’ll find the best way to get you there.