Prescriptivist grammar rules that are dying out

About a decade ago, I read a blog written by a linguistics student who proclaimed, “Prescriptivism must die!!!”

He was talking about the school of thought that believes that textbooks and other language authorities should lay down rules about how to use certain words and grammatical structures. This school of thought, which ruled the day in the 1950s and ’60s, says we need a Big Book of Grammar No-Nos and that everyone who doesn’t follow those rules is wrong.

The alternative to prescriptivism is descriptivism, which points out that language rules aren’t static and can’t be forced. What was wrong a century or two ago is right today. For example, the word “girl” used to mean a child of either sex. So it would have been wrong to insist “girl” referred specifically to a female child. Our language is always in flux, with every word in transition between incorrect and correct. So it doesn’t make sense to insist that “cool” is a temperature and not a state of Fonziness.

Some say this is linguistic anarchy. Not true. Descriptivism recognizes that language has rules. They’re just more liquid than prescriptivists would like. And those rules are made by everyone who speaks the language, not a few tweedy academics trying to boss everyone else around.

But it seems to me that prescriptivism is already dying. Here, in my recent column, are some prescriptivist rules I used to hear a lot and don't hear anymore.