Standards don’t matter until I need them

This is rather amusing. A few months back I had this exchange with Peter Hitchens and Oliver Kamm on Twitter, which I wrote about here:

So, Hitchens endorses Kamm’s view. Okay, good. This was Hitchens yesterday:

Suddenly the meaning of words is important. I challenged Hitchens on this, and he responded:

What’s that phrase? Everyone’s a liberal, except on the things they care about?

Kamm’s argument is that style guides should be ignored because people are free to write however they want as, strictly speaking, provided a word is understood it is by default correct. So if I want to use imply and infer interchangeably, there’s no problem because everyone knows what I mean. Uh-huh.

Personally, I see style guides as being similar to conventions on dress. There is no reason why anyone should wear a shirt and tie to a formal occasion, and there is certainly no approved body laying down standards, but for some reason we all agree that coming to a wedding in jeans and a t-shirt isn’t the done thing. Or course we can ignore the many sources of advice on how to dress and laugh at the absurdity of it but, if you really want that job, it’s probably a good idea to make yourself look smart. From what I can tell, Kamm’s advice on writing is the equivalent of telling the plebs to walk around in beachwear (while making damned sure, I’ll wager, that his own kids attend interviews in a suit and tie just as he always did). Amusingly Hitchens appears to have endorsed this view, only is now upset someone has rocked up to his wedding in a tracksuit.


51 thoughts on “Standards don’t matter until I need them

  1. Indeed. I’ve never for more than a moment worried about whether I was atheist, agnostic, or a believer. I do find militant atheists annoying

    Fuck English, let’s go right back to the original Greek: a + theos just means “without gods”. In other words, a lack of belief in something. All of this “atheism is a religion/positive belief” nonsense is a giant thumb in the eye to the basic intentional logic St. Thomas bloody Aquinas spent so much of his free time on, thank you very much.

    The thing is, not all that many people who are atheists self-identify as such, nor even think about it much at all. There’s rather a lot of antitheists, though – people who are “against the gods” and religion generally.

    Richard Dawkins just comes across as a dick most of the time.

    It’s been a whole twelve minutes since I banged on about Complex PTSD, so I’ll note that a) childhood sexual abuse can permanently warp a person’s personality in unpredictable ways, and b) late in life, Richard Dawkins acknowledged being molested by an Anglican deacon at the age of ten.

    Okay, maybe not that unpredictable.

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