Pinker Explains Roberts' Oath Goof Posted on January 22, 2009 by Will Wilkinson Mind-altering prescriptivism. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Published by Will Wilkinson Head of Policy at TBD (Block Inc.) View all posts by Will Wilkinson
4 thoughts on “Pinker Explains Roberts' Oath Goof”
I usually like Pinker’s writings, and am decidedly for split infinitives, but this article struck me as unnecessarily derisive towards the Chief Justice. Obama screwed it up too.
I’m not sure Obama screwed it up.
I think he stopped because he didn’t hear what he was expecting, and then tried to push through it by approximating what Roberts had said.
But, I agree that it’s unfair to make this diagnosis of Roberts based on this. He screwed up, and maybe there is no deep reason for why he did it exactly as he did.
And Ed Whelan gives examples of Roberts violating this “rule” in his own opinions.
And in a linked post demonstrates that even the change to the Dylan lyrics wasn’t necessarily motivated by grammar.
So, the entire op-ed seems pretty weak (except as a grammar lesson).
I agree GU. He has succumbed to that ailment where he writes well about his specific expertise in his field, but lets extreme partisanship invade his broader writings. Maybe it should be called “Krugmanism”.
I just see two nervous guys trying to work through the situation.
Pinker also appears to be remarkably wrong. The version of Dylan’s song given in the opinion is the official lyrics as appearing on Dylan’s website, though of course “ain’t” is commonly substituted when singing. And several others, such as Ed Whelan of National Review, have provided many examples of Justice Roberts writing exactly the grammatical structure that Pinker thinks he so abhors in his own opinions.
Pinker has a wild theory unsupported by any facts except for one he gets wrong.
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