Via last Sunday's Washington Post, a column by Gene Weingarten: Goodbye, cruel words: English. It's dead to me. Excerpt:
The language's demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America's daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured.
Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.
In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling "pronounciation" has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation.
On Aug. 6, the very first word of an article in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal was "Alot," which the newspaper employed to estimate the number of Winston-Salemites who would be vacationing that month.
The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of "spading and neutering." The Miami Herald reported on someone who "eeks out a living" -- alas, not by running an amusement-park haunted house.
The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star described professional football as a "doggy dog world." The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of "prostrate cancer."
It's not just newspapers. I rarely finish a new hardcover book without finding some embarrassing errors in copy editing.
Others, like "doggy dog" and "eek out" show that people often hear "dog eat dog" and "eke out" but haven't seen them in print (maybe because they don't read enough). When people endorse an idea, they may write "Here, here," when the real term used in parliamentary debates is "Hear, hear."
We seem stuck with the wild inconsistencies of English usage. We spell it "one" because we used to pronounce it like "own." Sloppy pronunciation changed the pronunciation but not the spelling. Yet we've kept the original pronunciation in related words like "atone" (to do something that makes you at one with others) and "alone" (to be just one).
So while I certainly don't like "doggy dog" and "prostrate cancer," I don't consider them fatal blows to the language. They'll either die away or become part of the language...further confounding long-suffering students of the language in future centuries.
Update: Inspired by this obituary, an editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch compiled a list of errors that have turned up in his own paper. I concur with all of them, except for his "most hated" usage, "went missing." The term has provoked a lot of controversy on this blog over the years. As I've often said, in the non-American English-speaking world it's a perfectly routine expression. But it drives most Americans crazy.