Over at Language Log last week, linguist Geoffrey Pullum posted an entry titled "Yale sluts and Princeton philosophers," about a threatened lawsuit over a Yale fraternity's writing a sign saying "WE LOVE YALE SLUTS."
Pullum's entry is primarily a fairly standard "damn those PC people who are trying to stop our precious freedom of speech!" post, thinly disguised as being of linguistic relevance through a couple of arguments about the use of language. And, y'know, I agree with him that our society has too many lawsuits. And he later retracted some of the political stuff that I found most annoying about his post, after he found out more about the situation; also, he linked to Jane Achson's subsequent guest entry that makes some compelling points about harassment. It's worth noting that there have always been legal limits on Americans' freedom of speech.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about; this is my language blog, not my political blog. So what I want to say here is that in that particular entry, Pullum (whom I normally have a fair bit of respect for) was so focused on making his political point that he fumbled a couple of language-related arguments. And the reason I want to talk about those arguments is that they're arguments that I see pretty often; so my point here is not primarily that Pullum shouldn't have made these arguments, but rather that nobody should be making them.
This got very long, so I'm continuing after the jump.