When I was in second grade I read “cousin” as “cow-sin” and I hid in the coat room fighting back tears, trying to figure out where Mrs. O’Neill was finding “cuzzin” in my borrowed Dick and Jane.
And until last night’s Antiques Roadshow I didn’t know how to say chalcedony. I’d only ever read the word, so in my head I pronounced it “CHAL-seh-doe-nee,” but apparently to gem specialists and lovers of spoken English alike, it’s “chal-SED-nee” (or more to the Greek, perhaps, “kal-SED-nee“). I spent the rest of yesterday evening and a good chunk of this morning distractedly trying to reconfigure the neural cow paths in my brain to accommodate this new and vital information. I’ll have you know.
And like the other day, when I was wondering whether licking the chocolate frosting off a dull chef’s knife wouldn’t be the act of an untrustworthy woman, I felt myself eerily cautioned from beyond the grave by H. W. Fowler:
The English speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive* is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; (5) those who know and distinguish.
1. Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes. ‘To really understand’ comes readier to their lips and pens than ‘really to understand’; they see no reason why they should not say it (small blame to them, seeing that reasons are not their critics’ strong point), and they do say it, to the discomfort of some among us, but not to their own.
2. To the second class, those who do not know but do care, who would as soon be caught putting knives in their mouths as splitting an infinitive but have only hazy notions of what constitutes that deplorable breach of etiquette, this article is chiefly addressed.
*It strikes me as very funny that you can substitute the word “mommybloggers” for “split infinitive” and it makes a whole new set of sense.
And I’m terribly sorry, but if you want to read another 1,500 words about split infinitives you’ll have to find a copy of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, 1965, because as someone who’s wantonly eaten peanut butter straight from the jar using a Swiss Army knife, I’ve never been able to read further than that.