On the "grammar police"
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. The Supreme Court is addressing the constitutionality of the new health care law. The Republican party continues its exhausting search for a viable presidential candidate. Renowned bad guy Anwar al-Awlaki was killed. Hordes of smelly, confused young people are camping out on Wall Street. Apart from their obvious newsy importance, these things share one commonality: I couldn’t tell you the first thing about them. They confuse me. So instead of talking about those things, I am going to talk about things that make me angry.
What makes me angry these days? Damn near everything. But today, I will focus on just one topic: the grammar police, also known as the punctuation patrol, the predicate posse, the clause clan (I don’t think this is a very positive name either), the pedantic bandits and the diction dicks. To be clear, dear reader, I write not of those whose regrettable job it is to check the writing of others for grammatical mistakes. I write of a more insidious menace, of the individual who chooses to correct another person’s grammar in informal writing scenarios or, worse yet, everyday speech.
You know the type of person. These are the people who find themselves mildly sexually aroused at the thought of correcting another person’s grammar in daily conversation. The people who loudly proclaim, “Umm hi? It’s ‘your,’ NOT ‘you’re’” (at least I assume they are proclaiming that; the words sound exactly the same, so it would be easy to confuse them), and then they look at you like they are waiting for their Nobel Literature Prize. But the worst part is, if you politely tell these people that they should “screw off,” they simply look at you and tell you that it’s improper to end a sentence with a preposition.
Friends, I am not against grammar. I love grammar. But there is a place for correcting the grammar of other people, and that place is elementary school. After that, each person should be allowed to use grammar as frequently or infrequently as they please. Many of history’s notable personalities were notoriously poor grammarians. To name just a few: Dolly the Sheep, Warren G. Harding, Gertrude Stein and Flavor Flav. And there is a rumor currently popular with historians (and you know how fast rumors spread with those gossip hounds) that famed emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar, not only had terrible grammar, he in fact did not speak any English whatsoever.
These grammar jerks (I am rapidly running out of clever nicknames) need to realize something: grammatical skills do not necessarily equate intelligence. In fact, I would go so far as to say that grammatical skills are diametrically opposed to intelligence. Any brain cells you waste on trying to properly determine where, exactly, to put a comma could surely be better appropriated, say, for example, by telling one of those grammar police persons where, exactly, they can put their advice.