The Elements of Totebaggery
Totebaggers love rules. In place of direct experience and reason — that is, the ability and inclination to think for oneself — they have authorities to appeal to. Like the authorities who warn you not to end sentences with prepositions. And not to write sentence fragments.
Leonard Lopate is again our limit case. The Elements of Style is one of his favorite books. And of course it is. Strunk and White is the totebagger's Code of Hammurabi, not something to read or even to consult, but something to submit to, or at least to claim to submit to. Worst of all, it is something to subject young students to: students who might otherwise come to hear and love the music in English are instead taught to chant the monotonic dirge of arid prose and fatuous rules.
Ever read anything by Leonard Lopate? I didn't think so. The thing about Strunk & White is that no one in their right mind would want to read anything that conformed to its prosaic strictures. One writer who knew this was, well, E.B. White. The fundamentalist evangelist of prose has been caught in the back of the limo with the hookers and cocaine of prescriptivism: adjectives and adverbs. The very non-totebaggy people at Language Log point out that White's own use of modifiers was positively Proustian in comparison to what he preached to the congregation.
Which leads me to wonder how it can be that Leonard Lopate left À la recherche du temps perdu off his list of favorite books.