Monday, December 10, 2012

Ur Rong: Why being a grammar snob is still being a snob



As someone who has only recently crossed the threshold into the more charming aspects of nerd-dom, I should be holding onto the preservation of grammar with everything I’ve got. For roughly 7 years, my ability to write essays that stylistically mirrored the novels I engrossed myself in was my only recognized talent. Even though it didn’t gain me any sort of popularity, it was still mine. Lover of priggish memes snarking the difference between “your” and “you’re” and passionately defending the use of the Oxford comma (sniff), somehow at some point I mistook grammar for some sort of virtue, and unfortunately I really don’t think I’m alone.

Do not misquote or misunderstand me; grammar is required. Proper grammar communicates an ever-important professionalism and elevates conversations. Grammar is what holds the mess of a language that we have together. All of my sentences may come out as loving rigatoni, a story about the time I stepped on a freshly painted bathtub, platypuses, complaining about an injury I got despite not doing anything to merit an injury, * and political snark, but all of these things are held together with the duct tape of grammar. Long story short, I’m random but I’m right. Well, in the modern context.

The beauty of language is how much of it has changed over time. English is one of the most democratic languages on the planet; who else puts ‘d’oh’ and ‘overshare’ in their dictionary? Some argue this move, but failing to recognize a word never actually stops its use but creates cultural divisions that are difficult to overcome. We do not have an academie anglais, and to that I say thank-trucking-god.

Over the past few months, I have taught Internet literary, media literacy, and well, regular literacy to various kinds of people, and learned just as much in return. I’m being purposely vague here; I don’t want anyone to one-day feel as if I’ve identified them here, and honestly, it doesn’t really matter, but I will plug in the volunteer tutoring program at any public library in HRM. We are kidding ourselves if we think that kids are being given a fair shot at literacy. Children come from a variety of backgrounds, and it is completely unrealistic to pretend that there’s any kind of even playing ground, especially when there is so much difference intreatment in the formative years. There’s no easy answer, well, beyond maybe talking to toddlers (no, seriously, see my last link, act 1) but if we could stop treating those who make grammatical errors as some sort of societal petulance that would be great.

It’s not like someone’s brain goes to waste just because they get confused when writing a sentence. There are so many values and opinions that are not expressed because there is such a demand to do it right that it makes it impossible to do. It’s an easy joke to tear apart the syntax of a mouthy YouTuber, and as much as I believe that evil lurks in the comment section of that website, be honest with yourself that it’s the fact that someone said “this sux!!!!!” and not that sucks isn’t spelt with an x. I don’t care about 90% of the people on YouTube, and I really don’t want to see “this sux!!!” on any type of formal essay, but when I see passionate assignments about Rosa Parks being turned back with only red circles around adverbs or even valid contributions rejected because they’re WRITTEN LIKE THIS WHICH LOTS OF ADULTS (IN PARTICULAR) I KNOW DO FOR SOME REASON? I realize that we’ve lost the point.

Just as Shakespeare would probably want to harpoon me right now, I will not speak how the teenagers of the future that I will love will speak, and as it kills so many today, it will kill me. Still, I will argue that thought isn’t dying. English is changing.

I’m going to warn you that I hate myself for defending Nicki Minaj right now too, thank you very much.

This is something people sometimes like to share a variation of on Internet sites of viewing:
Well, is this any better?


This is not a modern phenomenon. I give you this.

For the record, I don’t think any of these ideas are really worth sharing, but these ones are. Who knew?

It’s more important to express something than to edit something. In expression, we can have the conversation for improvement. This isn’t a defense of mediocrity; it’s the acceptance that literacy issues exist and frequently there are gender and cultural issues associated with it. So you can ignore what people say because of how they say it, or you can potentially solve the problem by communicating with them, and be an actual decent human being in the process.

I’ve made up my mind to get that maybe “ballin’” isn’t APA appropriate, but it can apply to political situations, and maybe the most important part of “No ones listening to me” isn’t the apostrophe.  

I’ve renounced my membership, grammar snobs. 
Now, have fun counting the mistakes in this.

*: see!!!!

4 comments:

Abi Prince said...

I wanted to say that I love your blog and that I love everything about this post.

Isabel said...

THANK YOU!!

Jason said...

Great blog. Language changes and we drive the change and change with it and we are in no way lesser beings for it.

That lyric comparison that you shared is really similar to ones that I see everywhere and is deliberately misleading. It's not just that "thou" isn't any better than "you" (fair point there), but it's pretty darn selective. Just because one date is later than the other does not prove anything. Here's the reverse:

The Kingsmen, 1955:
Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Mumford and Sons, 2012:
And I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of darkness
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun

Finally, "maybe the most important part of 'No ones listening to me' isn’t the apostrophe."

Maybe, I might have to steal that on occasion

Rebecca Jane said...

I think you are so on point with what you're saying here, but I'm feeling guilty because I am such a grammar snob! Officially will work on ridding myself of said snobbishness.