A peevishness beyond

We all have our peeves about language. But Andrew McMillen’s fascinating article about those who contribute to Wikipedia reveals someone with a peevishness that makes others pale into insignificance: Bryan Henderson, who singlehandedly is trying to obliterate the use of ‘comprised of’ from its pages.

I am no lover of this usage, but that really is extreme behaviour.

A hidden side effect may be on the value of Wikipedia content as a corpus of written English: a single peever like Henderson can introduce systematic bias into the data. I am hoping that one of the experts over on Language Log (an excellent reference on the matter of peevishness in language) will consider that and other implications.

Meanwhile Henderson has his work cut out. According to the OED, Hylton was an early user of comprise of, in about 1440, as was Caxton in 1481. The OED also gives specific recognition to its use in the passive, citing four uses of “comprised of”. Changing those will be a real challenge…

Thanks to “timothy” who drew attention to this on Slashdot.