Grammar Nazis: Useful Language Experts, Or Elitist Snobs?

from the well-this-ought-to-be-fun dept

I know that my grammar is not ideal, though I really do strive to get the basics right. There are times, however, when I feel that the strict "rules" that are put forth by grammar go too far. If the text makes the point in a way that people can understand, what is the problem? On top of that, there's the utter snobbishness with which some (no, not all!) grammar aficionados put down anyone who makes a silly mistake. I have no problem with someone letting me know about a typo or a grammatical problem in a friendly and useful manner -- but all too often the message is delivered in the tone suggesting that making such an elementary grammatical error suggests that I obviously never made it out of the second grade. So I'm glad to see an English professor taking on the grammar nazis.

Salon is running a review of a new book by English professor Jack Lynch, called The Lexicographer's Dilemma, which argues that grammar nazis should chill out. Grammar rules are mostly to make people feel elite, not to make them any clearer, according to the book. Again, I have no problem with basic grammar rules for the sake of clarity, but focusing too much on the rules over the clarity is a mistake, and it's nice to see at least some "experts" agreeing.

Filed Under: english, grammar, language

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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 29 Oct 2009 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re: Grammar Snobs

    You're making me feel philosophical now, so I will add:

    One of the biggest challenges for humanity, and one of the seemingly cruelest facts about our mysterious nature, is that we are all completely isolated. Not one of us is ever able to completely communicate the true nature of our perceptions, ideas and emotions to another person. At some point you've probably considered the notion that what you see as red and blue could be different from what I see, and we would never know - but if you follow that line of thought, you realize the same is true of everything, right down to the very texture of thought and self-awareness.

    This fact is what gave rise to language in the first place. And it could be argued that all of human art, literature, poetry and music is an attempt to bridge the divide between our isolated selves and communicate something fully, even if it's only a single moment of emotion or the essence of an idea. I think this is a glorious pursuit, and precise language is one of the tools we use in it.

    Many people value language a great deal, and revel in the process of examining it closely to discover its nuanced meanings. We don't ask that everyone do the same (I am very glad others put their minds to different tasks) but we do feel some responsibility to defend the language when it is egregiously assaulted.

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