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16

THURSDAY

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I often lament the “new English” and its emphasis on function over form. So, when I cracked open John McWhorter’s Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care, I expected to find a kindred crank yammering on about lost artistry and flouted grammar. Alas, McWhorter is a linguist, I am what he would consider a “language maven,” and he’d be the first to admit that his type has “no more interest in Strunk & White than a molecular biologist has in dog training.” (This is a good defense for McWhorter, because I found an incorrect use of the word “compliment” on the second page of his introduction.) Focusing on oral English, McWhorter traces the decay of the language to the ’60s counterculture and its emphasis on “doing your own thing.” In our quest for self-expression, he argues, we’ve free-wheeled ourselves into a trend that’s producing a progressively smaller toolkit for argument, imagination, and even music. He, uh, like, speaks at 7 p.m. at Borders, 18th & L St. NW. Free. (202) 466-4999. (Anne Marson)