I often find myself trying to explain why linguistic fine points -- like using "they" as a singular pronoun -- matter. I don't believe it's just a question of snob appeal. The latest explanatory term I've latched onto is "cultural signifier." It's a bit too ivory-tower for my taste, but I don't know a better one. The idea is that the linguistic fine points we pay attention to -- the accent we have, the vocabulary we use, the knowledge of traditional grammar we exhibit -- say something about us. They hint at both the culture we come from and our place in that culture, and there's no getting away from this.
Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.