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There are undoubted pleasures to be had from being a pedant. It can be satisfying to point out someone’s faulty grasp of the subjunctive, or to tick them off for splitting an infinitive. The pleasure comes not so much from the fact of drawing attention to another’s error—which the pedant sees as a regrettable by-product of his duties—as from the feeling of complete rightness that it brings. For the pedant, armed with the weapons of etymology and grammar, is pretty much unanswerable. And in life, the sensation of being unanswerably right is rare.

Yet pedants make the mistake of not…

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