You know that grammatical “rule” about not ending a sentence with a preposition? Well, who ever decided finishing off a sentence like that is a bad thing? (Personally, we think it’s one of the silliest things anyone ever came up with.)

Released January 22, 2010.

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In his new book, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of ‘Proper’ English, from Shakespeare to South Park, literary historian Jack Lynch offers a lively narrative about the evolution of such rules, starting in the 17th century, when grammar books were more like self-help guides for the upwardly mobile. He introduces us to the flesh-and-blood (and almost always quirky) grammarians and dictionary editors who created and popularized traditional rules that people still argue about today. Recently Lynch talked with Martha about why and how some of those rules came to be.

Incidentally, Lynch, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, has published his own helpful guide to grammar and usage online.

Photo by Liz West. Used under a Creative Commons license.