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
    Jason, 29 Oct 2009 @ 11:05am

    To me it's a question of art.

    Grammar in language is like conventions in art. You learn the rules so that you can break them beautifully.

    Some people may never learn certain rules, yet their own natural aesthetic sense consistently renders something utterly compelling. A rough cut diamond.

    Some people use grammar perfectly with effusive pedantry and seem to enjoy screwing up a beautifully simple idea. A gilded lily.

    Some people learn the rules, but don't give a crap. Their sloppy language only serves to emphasize sloppy logic. Shit on a pig.

    Mainly though, most people are just plain, white bread.

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