What do you do when you are confronted by such slippages in the English language as `in agreeance with' for `in agreement with' and `alot' instead of `a lot'?
The idea that language change is a matter of popular will, that acceptance can be forced on a minority by the sheer weight of numbers, is one that is still displeasing to some people, who see it as the path to a decay of standards.
If enough people say `I'm in agreeance with you' without even suspecting that there might be something wrong about this usage, then is it right that there should be no argument in the language court of law?
Just by the way, I think that this particular usage still hangs in the balance – it may be that it is a passing aberration, in a timely way addressed and corrected. But the spelling of `alot' as one word will, I predict, be with us as an accepted form very soon. It is taken for granted by our children and will be seen as perfectly regular by our children's children. (Bear in mind the case of Middle English `napron' which became `an apron' before you judge them too harshly.)
You care! Of course you do. The whole idea is abhorrent. But before you let rip with some thunderous condemnations, bear in mind that Fowler at the beginning of the 20th century listed `enthuse', `orate' and `liaise' as backformations which had not yet achieved respectability. By the end of that century no one would have suspected that those words had anything other than a legitimate origin.
So what are your rights in the matter?
Firstly, to maintain your own practice – until such time as you yourself feel happy about changing it.
Secondly, to identify as erroneous those changes which are still not accepted by the community at large.
But rights go with obligations, and in this case the obligation is to accept as a legitimate variation those changes which ARE accepted by the community at large. The guide to what is and what isn't `accepted' will be the accumulated wisdom of the dictionaries, style guides and language reference written by speakers of your kind of English for the use of your language community.
The dictionary cannot dictate to you what your choice is in the matter but it can give you guidance on how relenting or unrelenting your opposition should be to a particular usage. This is of particular significance if you happen to be in a position to have influence on others in these matters, if you are perhaps a teacher or an editor, or even just a parent attempting to maintain good relations with your children.
It is amusing that while the change in English from Old English through Chaucerian English to Modern English doesn't seem to trouble us, change in our own lifetime can be extremely unsettling. The conservatives amongst us have a role to play in deciding these issues – no language community should rush into expressions like `in agreeance with' without a bit of a struggle.
But neither should they feel that they have a monopoly on language standards, and that the rules that they learnt and the choices that they made when they were young should be regarded as unalterable truth by the next generation.
--Sue Butler, Publisher of the Macquarie Dictionary