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Those Illiterates -- Chaucer, Sir Walter Scott, and Ruskin:

A commenter writes:

Baloney, we should not accept the degradation of distinctions, clarity, etc., that illiterates introduce into the language. To grill is not to barbeque. At present does not mean presently. Anxious does not mean eager. And to beg the question does not mean suggests the question. Except to people who have no concern for communicating clearly.
OK, that's what the pseudonymous commenter stubbs reports. Here is what the Oxford English Dictionary reports:
3. a. At the present time; at this time, at present, now.
Apparently avoided in literary use between the 17th and 20th centuries, but in regular use in most English dialects and by Scottish writers; revived in the 20th cent. in the U.S., subsequently in Britain and elsewhere. Regarded by some usage writers, esp. after the mid 20th cent., as erroneous or ambiguous.

?a1425 (c1380) CHAUCER tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. V. pr. vi. 122 The science of hym..lokith in his simple knowynge alle thingis of preterit ryght as thei weren idoon presently ryght now. c1450 (1410) J. WALTON tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. (Linc. Cathedral 103) 325 {Th}e estate of souereigne god on hye Is stondyng euere in one..All-gates in hym-selfe presentlye. 1489 CAXTON tr. C. de Pisan Bk. Fayttes of Armes I. v. 11 Charles the fyfthe..fader of this that presently regneth. a1533 LD. BERNERS tr. A. de Guevara Golden Bk. Marcus Aurelius (1546) G g ij b, Dedes done presently in our daies. 1563 L. HUMPHREY Nobles of Nobilitye sig. vii, Wherfore the quaffing of the dutche Nobilitye is presently haled through al realmes. 1637 R. HUMFREY tr. St. Ambrose Christian Offices I. 31 A reward to be rendred hereafter, not presently. 1697 tr. C'tess D'Aunoy's Trav. (1706) 191 It is, says he, too long and melancholy a Mischance to relate presently. 1740 J. TULL Horse-hoeing Husb. Suppl. 257 Enough to make the Horse hoing common in Time to come, if not presently. 1764 T. REID Inquiry Human Mind vi. ยง17 The question presently under consideration. 1826 SCOTT Provinc. Antiq. 85 Sir William Rae, Baronet,..presently Lord Advocate. 1849 J. RUSKIN Seven Lamps Archit. vi. 171 Our presently disputed claims. 1897 A. GEIKIE Anc. Volcanoes Brit. I. I. i. 5 The presently active volcano must be the basis and starting-point of inquiry. 1901 Leeds Mercury 4 July, A young man belonging to Rotherham and presently staying with his parents at Bridlington. 1939 Topeka (Kansas) State Jrnl. 20 Feb. 12/1 Sunner is presently minister of interior and one of the outstanding leaders of the Falangists. 1957 G. MARX Let. 12 Apr. (1967) 213, I am presently building a house and doing my own show, but sometime within the next two months I'll make it. 1958 Economist 9 Aug. 433/1 The praise presently being heaped upon him seems to be..a consequence of the recent recovery in the Conservatives' fortunes. 1971 Nature 2 July 23/1 The Caribbean area is a subplate presently attached to the South American plate. 1997 Independent 5 May (Media Plus Suppl.) 4/1 Good Housekeeping..presently makes a tidy sum selling cookery books and kitchenware.

My question: Even if you are a prescriptivist, should you trust the prescriptions of "stubbs" and those who take his view, and treat the "at present" sense of "presently" as having been "introduce[d] into the language" by illiterates? Or should you take the view that what Chaucer, Sir Walter Scott, and Ruskin -- as well as many other users of the English language -- have written is actually quite literate?

More broadly, how can you, in the face of this evidence, claim that "At present does not mean presently"? What odd meanings of "does not mean" and "illiterates" would you need to use to make such claims?

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