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. identicon
    Miyna, 1 Nov 2009 @ 6:06am

    I disagree

    While I understand that tone is everything, and that tone isn't always easily understood over the internet, the idea that people shouldn't use proper grammar whenever possible is horrific.

    I'm not defending people who are complete jerks about it, and I'm not talking about using big words and complicated sentences, I only mean that proper word usage -- your v. you're, do v. due, etc. -- and spelling are important. Simplifying language and butchering it are entirely different things.

    I fully believe that the people who have the biggest problem with so-called Grammar Nazis are those who don't understand basic grammar (and spelling!), due to substandard teaching. I am discomfited to learn that some of the professors and teachers responsible for this are climbing on the bandwagon instead of taking responsibility. Don't get me started on the parenting involved in this endemic.

    It appears, then, that the issue has come full circle -- from substandard education to improper grammar, leading to the abundance of incorrect spelling and word usage and the defense of it by substandard educators, and by those who are not well taught.

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