"Norma Loquendi" is a Latin phrase meaning approximately "The standards of grammar, etc. as established by a language's speakers' actual custom." Some people overtly or covertly determine Norma Loquendi based on customary language habits only within a certain circle of speakers. This is, for example, the feeling I got from William Safire in his book In Love with Norma Loquendi. By "speaker" I do not mean to imply that Norma does not take customary written use of language into account. (In any case, in our AOL age, there is a whole new category of written language -- Internet speech -- that lies very close, usage-wise, to spoken language.)

Norma is a more fun way of looking at descriptive grammar, the opposite of prescriptive grammar. Let me repeat here: whose grammar Norma Loquendi describes depends on who is describing her.

Norma likes you. I like Norma (I'm a pedant, but I like descriptive grammar).

Not everyone likes Norma. Chris Trejbal, columnist for the Minnesota Daily Online, once wrote the following of descriptive grammarians: "These are the same wishy-washy types that turn out to be cultural relativists, physical anti-realists and Neo- Postmodern- Deconstructive- Gender-Studies majors, incapable of taking a firm stand on any issue."
Back in the free-wheeling, PC 1820s, wishy-washy cultural relativist Postmodernist Alexander Campbell wrote in the preface to the fourth edition of his The Living Oracles: "Since the days of Horace it is admitted, by all grammarians, that common usage is the sovereign arbiter of language: Usus, quem penes arbitrium est, el jus, et norma loquendi." But then, he was a religious reformer.

My firm stand is that over time, Norma knows what she's doing, though it takes a few years to confirm that a new language custom is not just a whim. Also, some of her habits defy logic or lead towards ambiguity -- in these cases it's necessary to disagree with her.

Norma is the daughter of Horace, who spoke in Ars Poetica of "us et norma loquendi." (Various sources also spell this "us" as "ius" and "jus".)
Book -- William Safire's In Love with Norma Loquendi
Web Page -- http://patriot.net/~lillard/cp/hor.arspoet.html
Web Page -- www-pp.hogia.net/alexander.backlund/horatius.html
Web Page -- www.mndaily.com/daily/1998/03/10/editorial_opinions/oo0310/
Web Page -- http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/oracles4th/pre4th.html

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