Stick to Football, TMQ
And have a healthy respect for the quirks of English
3:00 PM, Oct 12, 2010 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, delights as usual with his analysis of Oregon's "blur offense" and the NFL's sweet and sour plays of the week, not to mention the Cheerleader of the week. His commentary on English grammar? Not so much.
Here, he's being not so much a snob as falling prey to scrupulosity—seeing a sin where there is none. The English language is not as rule-bound as he thinks it is. Yes, there are language scolds who insist on the distinction he makes here. But their narrow definition of "healthy" is not historically supported. "Healthful" has always been among the secondary meanings of "healthy."
What's more, the expression "healthy food" has not "become widespread"; it always was widespread. Google Books turns up, for the 19th century, 5,660 instances of "healthy food" and 3,850 of "healthful food." For the 20th century the figures are 21,500 for "healthy food"; 11,000 for "healthful."
Here is the "Botanalogia Universalis Hibernica: or a General Irish Herbal" a 1735 reference work:
And here is the usage note from the American Heritage Dictionary: