Why HAVE a Look When You Can Simply Look?

More pet peeves from our forebears in the 19th century.

Language scolds of old wondered why in the world you would “take” a walk when you intended simply to walk. And don't get them started on “was being built.” Don’t you know that such constructions are vulgar and, heaven forbid, feminine? 

JOHN McWHORTER: For our bonus segment for this episode, I want to share with you a little bit more that gives you a sense of how arbitrary our peeves often are. Let's go back to the late 19th century — so we're in Richard Grant White territory again. And let's take a paragraph. This is a paragraph that I'm making up. But here's how it would go:

Let's have a look at the first two chapters I have excerpted where we learn about the period when the Cross Bronx Expressway was being built from the standpoint of people who were born in East Tremont and lived there all their lives.

That would seem to be a pretty ordinary sentence. But you know what? In the late 1800s, the grammarian type — [in a snooty professorial voice] the one who maybe would have talked like this — would have considered that paragraph to be full of mistakes.

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