Every so often, there’s a phrase that enters the lexicon as a good-natured jab/sometime pejorative. Then something happens that shines a whole new light on it.
Late last month, this tweet went out: “It really isn’t that difficult to use correct spelling and grammar. Be professional and disciplined in everything that you do for the cause.”
The punchline? The tweet was from the American Nazi Party, so it appears there actually are grammar Nazis.
I guess if you’re going to promote hate, it looks better if your grammar is good. Slate noted, though, that referring to themselves as “seperatists” in the FAQs on the party’s site sort of undermines that message.
But that didn’t stop the Internet from exploding … into lots and lots of laughter, and for a few seconds at least, cats weren’t the most-viewed thing on the Web, a disappointment Senor Pantalones is still trying to get over. I actually felt a little guilty about having used a grammar Nazi meme on my blog several months earlier.
One comment, from jimward21, on the Washington Post’s story about the tweet pretty much summed it all up:
How grammar fights start:
American Nazi: “I don’t want no trouble.”
Grammar Nazi: “So you want some trouble?”
Here’s where taking things with a grain of salt comes in really handy. While some may be shocked at the mere fact that it’s the American Nazi Party we’re talking about, the more cynical of us see it as ridiculous hilarity.
You have to laugh every once in a while to maintain some sense of sanity, reality and perspective. Not everything should be taken so seriously. War, rape, famine, death, etc.—yes, take those things very seriously because they can have a huge impact on our lives. But when you can’t laugh at something as utterly ridiculous as real grammar Nazis, something’s wrong. Most of the time, grammar only affects your blood pressure (have I mentioned how much I hate misuse of semicolons?), not your life.
Unless it’s the missing comma in the following sentence: Let’s eat Grandma.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a strict grammarian, partly because following grammar rules to the letter can result in something as painful to read as it is to write. Good grammar and good writing don’t always occupy the same space.
Sentence fragments? If they make sense in context, fine. Won’t hew to the who/whom rules? Eh, as long as it’s understandable and not obviously wrong (such as “Whom are you?”), that’s OK.
In the context of the Voices page, understanding a writer’s intent is far more important than diagramming each sentence and lopping off dangling participles.
A few readers responded to my recent column about words with comments that had me giggling, including one’s list of “ARbonics”—I’ll admit I’d heard purt near all of ’em growing up, and the few I hadn’t I’ll have to find a way to work in somehow.
Another reader sent in a list of perfectly good words that he and others are afraid to use because of the chances that someone might mishear them and think they’re using slurs or “naughty” words. (And yes, my favorite place is Djibouti … because I’m apparently an 8-year old boy.)
And now I know why I don’t get many invitations …
Still, I’m a lot more fun to be around than grammar snobs who huff and puff every time you dare use either with nor, or perhaps end a sentence with a preposition (because that is English up with which they will not put). And if you haven’t read June Casagrande’s Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies, please do. It will make you feel sooo much better about your grasp of grammar and all the times you’ve wanted to smack a grammar snob upside the head.
A note from another reader reminded me I’ve been remiss in introducing myself; not unusual, especially considering that I tend to stay in the background (I don’t exactly like calling attention to myself). However:
Having grown up in Western Arkansas just south of Fort Smith, I headed to the other side of the state for college, earning a bachelor’s degree in radio-TV news with a political science minor, and a master’s in mass communications research at ASU in Jonesboro.
So yeah, I do have a little bit of a background in politics and research, enough at least that I kinda know what I’m talking about most of the time. Just don’t ask me to explain some people are so gullible that they’ll accept anything they’re told. I’ll never understand them or stop being frustrated at how some politicians use them to achieve their agendas that usually are not in their best interests.
My first “real” job was as an editor and producer at a TV station, but I would soon realize that wasn’t where I wanted to be, so started all over again in print, my first love, 17 years ago (whoa, I feel old; shocking, I know, since I’m only 21 … I was a prodigy).
After several years as a news clerk/contest coordinator/sometime feature story and review writer, I moved to the copy desk where I served as the readers’ last defense against incomprehensible copy. During my time there, I won several awards for editing and headline-writing, but after a while realized I wasn’t happy.
In mid-2011, I moved over to the opinion section and the often-wacky things that ensue over here, becoming Voices editor when the previous editor moved to Texas in January 2013.
It took a while before I gained the courage to write a column, but it had become necessary after several instances of bullying; Voices had been without a face or voice of an editor for too long. After I started writing it, it became much calmer, and some formerly hard-to-deal-with letter-writers even became email buddies. Sure, a few still try strong-arm tactics (which don’t work, by the way), but only a few.
As for why there’s no picture with the column, honestly, I’ve just never taken the time to have my picture taken.
And I’m a little afraid I’ll break the camera.