Confessions of a Former Grammar Nazi

I have to admit that I’ve been judging you. Every time you typed you’re instead of your or used it’s for its or saying “it ’tis” rather than merely ’tis.  I’m not saying I thought you were a bad person, but I might have thought you were rather dimwitted. I was never one to correct people online, but I chortled a little when such corrections were made. (And if you ever used irregardless or should of instead of should have, yeah, I did think you were a bad person.)

And if you are thinking “but I’d never do any of that” then I’m guessing you’ve been judging right along side me.

But the utter arbitrariness of the language that I teach every day, the language that breaks every rule in the book, wore me down.  Some people refuse to dangle their participles because someone decided a long time ago that English should have the same rules as Latin. Silly.And why are some titles italicized and some underlined?  Because some guy said so. The different roles of em-dashes and hyphens. Why must we conjugate “to” be so many different ways? Not to mention that it differs depending on the style guide you are using. If you accept that the purpose of language is for communication, so much of grammar becomes tedious pedantry. For instance:

If I say “How was your weekend?”

“Actually it was quite smashing. We rode bicycles along the river and had a lovely picnic. We didn’t stop until our legs were shaking with exhaustion. ” (As my hypothetical English mate says.)

and

“Funny. Bike ride…river…I am eat the lunch. Very tired.”  (as any of my Korean students would say).

These two answers convey almost the exact same information to me. Admittedly not all situations are this vague. There are certainly times when even a missing comma can utterly change the meaning–we’ve all seen the FB posts. Generally, however, we understand the meaning even when poor grammar is used.

Ultimately I’ve decided that grammar nazi-ing is simply a form of snobbery. No different than picking on someone for wearing out-of-fashion clothes, the wrong brand of makeup, or liking the wrong genre of books/music/movies. There’s no justification in it other than perhaps a well-developed sense of linguistic schadenfreude.

So for me I’m off the judging. I hope your going to be less critical too! 😉

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