Kopel vs. The Economist, Round 4

Today on the Los Angeles Times website, Christopher Lockwood (U.S. editor of The Economist) and I each attempt to debunk cherished myths in the gun control debate. His article is really a reply to my Wednesday article on the international aspect of the gun issue; I think it’s his best contribution so far.

Thanks to a post from a VC commenter, I was inspired to successfully convince the LA Times folks not to say that we are debunking (or attempting to debunk) “shibboleths.” A shibboleth is a linguistic style (such as pronouncing a word a certain way, using a certain phrase, or using a special grammar) which a group uses to distinguish its members from outsiders. So a shibboleth can’t really be “debunked” as factually inaccurate — unless it’s an inefficient shibboleth, which doesn’t accurately separate insiders from outsiders.

Thanks to an excellent Wikipedia entry on shibboleths, I learned that rule against splitting infinitives isn’t really a true rule of English grammar, but a shibboleth invented by the late 19th-century upper class English; Latin infinitives are only a single word, so the shibboleth-makers decided that English infinitives should act more like Latin infinitives. After so many years of unnecessary non-splitting, I am now eager to freely split infinitives.

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