As an American, I like it that English is the global language, at least for now. Travel and commerce are easier when there’s a common lingua franca; I certainly like being a native speaker of the existing world tongue.
But English isn’t easy to master. English would be more competitive in the marketplace — versus, let’s say, Mandarin or German — if non-native speakers could more quickly pick up the basics and feel comfortable that they were reasonably proficient.
Toward that end, English-language purists who immediately notice “bad” spelling and grammar (yes, I’m one of them) should lighten up and accept simpler, easier forms as they naturally arise. Here are a few examples:
- Less vs. fewer: The “correct” form is (for example) fewer people, because the word people is a countable noun; compare with, e.g., less time. But all the time I see “incorrect” usage such as less people. We ought to accept the latter form, because there’s no logical reason that the word less shouldn’t do double duty — it’d be one less thing (!) for non-native speakers to learn, not to mention a bit more intuitive to spell.
- Who vs. whom: Let’s just use who for everything, as many do anyway.
- It’s vs. its.
- The subjunctive — e.g., if I was a carpenter (“incorrect”) vs. if I were a carpenter.
This brings to mind the likely-apocryphal story of a new college campus whose architects supposedly didn’t design in any sidewalks: instead, they planted grass, waited six months, and then paved over where people actually walked. Likewise, if we purists want English to continue being the global tongue, we shouldn’t grumble if it evolves to be more serviceable for others.
With one exception: I still maintain that impact is not a verb (shaddup you kids, get off my lawn) ….