Ending the Reign of the Grammar Nazi

One of the biggest failures of our education system, and of our generation in general is our tendency to be hugely critical of mistakes. It starts from school where the kid who mis-pronounces a word while reading is mocked to little bits, often supported by the teacher who confirms that he is indeed an idiot. For those five seconds, he could discover a new radioactive element but will find himself alienated for the simple reason that he pronounced ‘tomato’ with an extra ‘ah’.

I restrict this particular piece towards usage of language, because it’s a problem that resurfaces on the internet repeatedly. It’s sad that despite our trend to seem as liberal and open minded as possible, we’re the first to criticize the users of incorrect grammar or bad spelling. The incorrect usage of language is often looked at as the sign of someone who has no clarity in what he or she wants to say.

To go wrong on a public platform is blasphemy, with people who you’ve never interacted with for months reaching out of their way to tell you that the ‘Athiest’ you’ve written is actually ‘Atheist’. I used to think languages were meant to communicate well in this age, not be a standard to prove how well educated one is nor weapons meant to be hurled at those unfortunate individuals who never learnt their model auxiliaries proficiently through school. Yes – You damn well understood the meaning of ‘Can I go to the playground?’

Make no mistake, I love language. I love language just as much as I like a rare steak, just as much as I love Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. I am completely for its evolution as the need of society demands it.

It’s necessary to follow rules of grammar to lay forth the foundation of a language, to form a skeleton for words to bind together thoughts in a cohesive form. I respect that mesh. But to use grammar as a base to distinguish the few of us who have been privileged enough to acquaint ourselves in its accepted perfect usage and to shun the ones who fail trying is a gross mistake.

I understand that there are places where it is protocol to follow the correct usage of prepositions and verbs. Exams, for example. Job interviews, formal letters of application, where one wouldn’t want to bring forth a casual or slovenly appearance and would want to highlight the seriousness of ones outlook through every aspect of his diction. There is no need to have the same outlook towards casual conversation. That restricts creativity. That makes you conform when you don’t need to conform.

It’s for this very reason that I dislike the compliment ‘well written’. It’s freely thrown as a mark of appreciation all over the world. I see it more as an approval for syntax as opposed to the actual content that the writer has to offer. It compliments the performance more than the script. Of course, there are several writers whose artistry with language supersede their content. For  them; such an epithet is apt. I’m still a firm old believer in content thriving as a monarch in the world of creativity.

One day, I’m sure we’ll face someone who will break the mesh of our prim and proper rules of grammar and raise a middle finger to the apostrophe in the same way a Picasso raised his to proportion and a Goddard to the cut. It’s only then that we’ll realise that we halted our own creative expression just for the simple reason of not wanting an asterix on our timelines.

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Education, Grammar, Intolerance, Norms, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Ending the Reign of the Grammar Nazi

  1. I’m always torn between the desire to express freely, and the rules of grammar that make what you say intelligible and unambiguous.
    Clearly, a good education (and/or wide reading) gives you the freedom to express yourself creatively without transgressing the rules. But sneering at those without that start is indeed a rather negative, self-preening act.
    This wonderful YouTube post came up a while back from one of England’s National Treasures, Stephen Fry. He of the posh voice and seemingly infinite knowledge of things literary, and a prime candidate for grammar pickiness – or so we all thought. Enjoy:

  2. That was a really good read and it’s so true. Your prose is beautiful and flowing. I can’t write that well yet but I’m just starting out again after a year of not blogging. Unfortunately I lost my 2 websites which expired while I was having back surgery in Oct. It’s okay I’m going to write about different stuff this time. I will be following you. Soon I’ll have a gravatar once I figure it out. Lol

  3. ‘Well written’ 😛

    I wanted to write about the idiocy of language activists. But you’ve elaborated better.

    I’m not against purity of language, nor am I advocating ignorance towards grammar and syntax. However, more importance should be given to the meaning behind the words and the context of the conversation than is given by those who think being a grammar Nazi is ‘cool’.

    The video posted by DavidPWhite is an excellent reply to those few instances of people getting popular for being Grammar Nazis. One I can vividly remember is Weird Al Yankovic who got popular for his video Word Crimes where he spoofs misuse of proper grammar. Another is when President Barack Obama said ‘a asteroid’ during a reddit Ask Me Anything and was promptly corrected on reddit; the redditor became a celebrity for a while, and is still praised by a few for having the guts to correct the president.

    Such acts popularize the need to criticize when grammatical slip-ups materialize. This trend is quite unnecessary, and tends to break down conversations and discussions. I would rather listen/read a great idea for what it is than look out for syntactical integrity.

    Thank you for saying it out loud with such eloquence.

  4. Shruti

    I believe that being a grammar Nazi has less to do with condescension and more to do with respect for the language.
    And another way to look at the epithet ‘well written’ is that it has the ability to uplift even mediocre ideas and make them tolerable, or even worthy of attention.

  5. “One day, I’m sure we’ll face someone who will break the mesh of our prim and proper rules of grammar and raise a middle finger to the apostrophe in the same way a Picasso raised his to proportion and a Goddard to the cut.”

    This is the piece that won this year’s Toto award for Creative Writing (English) – http://tfqmagazine.org/issue/august-issue-2014-big-love-small-towns/k-vish/

  6. Samarth Vats

    Thank you for this, my friend. Just stumbled upon your blog, please keep writing! 🙂

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