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
    Dark Helmet (profile), 29 Oct 2009 @ 9:25am


    Probably the writer in me, but I'm kind of "into" grammar. Which isn't to say that I don't make plenty of mistakes, of course, but I tend to appreciate its importance.

    Trivial matters on the web aside, grammar is important not in so much as representing who is "right" or "wrong", or even educated or not, but rather because, in addition to language being the dialect of vocal communication, it is also the language of THOUGHT. To disdain an understanding of proper language is to disdain that which makes mankind so unique, and I truly believe there is a correlation between the quality of one's language and the quality of one's thought.

    Thinking back to the founding fathers, they simply had a way of words and communication that at the very least SEEMS so far and away beyond what we hear today that it is mind boggling. The eloquence with which they spoke perhaps helps to explain the regard with which our nation's leaders were held in the early days of our history.

    We see such distinctions in modern days as well. Truly, the biggest, or at least more noticeable difference between our current and last Presidents have been their ability to communicate. That certainly involves many factors, but elegance and proper use of language is among them. And while we might not all be speaking to foreign dignitaries and the like, if communication, both written and spoken, is in large part what makes us human, then shouldn't we at least make a passing effort at excellence in its regard?

    ***This message brought to you by the Dark Helmet Organization on Pretty Words and Comma Prevalence***

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