Badda-Blogger links to a column by David Gelernter on the mangling of the English language, as seen in the pages of the revised Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style." It's yet another example of how we sacrifice the elements of good writing at the altar of political correctness.
According to White, Strunk "felt that the reader was in serious trouble most of the time, a man floundering in a swamp, and that it was the duty of anyone attempting to write English to drain the swamp quickly and get his man up on dry ground, or at least throw him a rope." The revised version tells us that Strunk felt, on the contrary, "that the reader was in serious trouble most of the time, floundering in a swamp, and that it was the duty of anyone attempting to write English to drain this swamp quickly and get the reader up on dry ground, or at least to throw a rope."
"At least to throw a rope?" Throw it where? To whom? The phrase is vague bordering on meaningless. And White's "get his man up on dry ground" hints at the author's personal responsibility to his reader. Of course these are details. But White cared passionately about the details that make for good writing.
The reviser clearly disapproves of the indefinite masculine — "he," "man" and so on — to mean anyone. Fine. Except that White believed the exact opposite, and said so in a rule he added to "Elements": "He has lost all suggestion of maleness in these circumstances."
This is exactly the kind of thing I was writing about last week when relating the story of the female liturgical assassin. Her desperate attempt to avoid any use of the masculine pronoun resulted in a sentence breathtaking in its ham-fistedness and vapidity. But lest you think that an isolated example, check this out:
The latest "Elements" includes clunkers like this: "When repeating a statement to emphasize it, the writer may need to vary its form. Otherwise, the writer should follow the principle of parallel construction." Here's the way it was actually written: "When repeating a statement to emphasize it, the writer may need to vary its form. But apart from this he should follow the principle of parallel construction."
It's ironic that in an era when journalists routinely distort the facts, even to the point of fabrication, in order to create a more "literary" piece, we now have the beauty and elegance of literature itself being obliterated by this pervasive political correctness.