Found in 4 comments on Hacker News
Veratyr · 2017-05-31 · Original thread
In case anyone is interested in the history of the English Language, Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue ( is a pretty easy and informative read.

Actually had it set as required reading in high school English of all things.

rogerbinns · 2012-09-17 · Original thread
You would enjoy Bill Bryson's book Mother Tongue. At one point (several hundred years ago) English was going through a period of simplification and rationalization but it was also during that period that dictionaries, newspapers etc become popular. Consequently some words had already become consistent and some hadn't and we are somewhat stuck with poor timing.

Esperanto is an attempt at a equal international language for all.

Because English and English speakers are happy to adapt and change, the simplification is happening. Look at text messaging where superfluous extra words and letters get dropped, as does case. Even Hollywood is careful to keep language simple in their popular movies aimed at a worldwide audience.

Terretta · 2012-01-05 · Original thread
I was referencing toddlers and how that age group learns. The word toddlers is not condescending, it's simply the most appropriate word for the age group in question.

> I don't see how it holds any more weight than your argument from antiquity

The dictionary is nothing but "argument from antiquity", as would be the conventional definition of "correct usage", in contrast to the "many people doing it wrong makes it right!" definition you disavowed, skipped a graph, then repeated.

Prepositions are not "essentially arbitrary" even when used with metaphysical concepts. Particular prepositions work with particular types of concepts, and curiously, end up quite similarly used among a variety of cultures and languages. In English, for example, is the concept something you can possess, or a process that happens to you? If you consider other things that couple with "on" or "by", you'll see what I mean.

Certainly English is charming, and rapidly evolving. You've likely read Bill Bryson's "The Mother Tongue", but if not, you might enjoy it.

brc · 2010-07-04 · Original thread
A good book which also covers this (and is quite entertaining) is Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson.

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