Is Piper Chapman — the most famous of Litchfield Federal Penitentiary’s inmates — a grammatical descriptivist or prescriptionist? Well, we got to find out recently during the second season of the Netflix runaway hit, Orange Is the New Black. Who would ever have guessed that we would discover something as important as Piper’s stance on grammar and usage?
Halfway through the seventh episode, during a meeting of Piper’s newly formed newsletter committee, a heated discussion about language usage unfolds (weirdly covering some of the same ground that Weird Al did in his Word Crimes video yesterday).
Flaca starts the nit-picking, identifying Lorna’s phrase “I could care less” in her newsletter contribution as being a grammar fail. “If you could care less, that means you still care. You know what I’m saying? Cause, like, it is possible for you to care less.”
Lorna: “No, no, I’m saying, is however much I care, I could care less than you.”
Flaca: “That’s not what it means. It should be ‘I couldn’t care less’. See? … Because you hit bottom with caring.”
Lorna shakes her head dismissively.
Flaca, appealing to Piper for semantic support: “Yo, Chapman, you tell her.”
Piper: “I mean technically, yes. But I think this is one of those things like literally,” Piper explains, “where the colloquial usage of the word eventually wins out. Languages evolve.” Go Piper, the descriptivist.
Flaca, defending her prescriptive stance: “Why you gotta be like that?”
“Look, everyone knows what I’m trying to say,” Lorna insists. “Why you gotta be a dick about it?”,
Flaca: “It’s called grammar, tonta …”