The digital age is changing not only the words we use but also their meanings. Have you noticed, for instance, that “Christ follower” is replacing “born again” and “evangelical”? Take a moment to peruse the list of who Rick Warren follows on Twitter.
Earlier this year, the Century published a piece by an environmental scientist on just how radical the current shift in CO2 levels are—from the perspective of 50 million years. As I was working with that scientist, Lee Vierling, on the piece, we struggled to find a language that he and I and readers of the Century could share.
He wanted something that was fluid and scientifically absolutely accurate. He also wanted to be certain that he was not using scare tactics.
Among my writerly friends and kin, debates about language rules are routine. I tend to wave the descriptivist flag, arguing various versions of the point that if almost everyone defines / conjugates / pronounces a word a particular way, there just isn't any coherent reason to call it wrong anymore.