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.
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Filed Under: english, grammar, language


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  1. icon
    herodotus (profile), 29 Oct 2009 @ 10:30am

    A lot of people are confused about grammar.

    Grammar, properly understood, is a study of the structure of language. The linguistic etiquette that many people understand to be 'grammar' hasn't been taken seriously by the real language experts, people like Chomsky or Hjelmslev or Lamb or Pike and their followers, for many years.

    The only reasons to worry about linguistic etiquette are either aesthetic or social. These are not unimportant concerns, and anyone who wants to be taken seriously or even just left alone in a given social circle should observe and conform to the language patterns of it's members.

    But the people who obsess over other peoples linguistic usage should not be called grammar nazis, they should be called by their proper name: schoolmarms.

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