WHAT IS IT WITH GRAMMAR NAZIS?

by eirenehogan

Are Grammar Nazis insecure lonely people who feel unloved, so are using their antiquated knowledge of primary school grammar to make themselves feel more important?

 

Where does language come from?  Does it come from grammar books and dictionaries?  Did God send down an English grammar and English dictionary?

 

Has English always been spelt the same way, and have English sentences always been constructed the same way?

 

No.

 

Language is a tool used by humans to communicate to each other.  Successful communication occurs when two people can understand each other.  What words are used, how ‘grammatically correct’ they are or whether they are to be found in dictionaries do no matter, if the two people understand each other, that is communication and that is language.

 

The basis of language is verbal communication and that is the most current and up-to-date.  Written language is a description of verbal language and is often a more out-dated version of spoken language.  Changes in language tend to occur in the spoken language first, and then filter down to written language.  In this modern era of internet and mobile phones and texting that is changing, as now there are many written innovations that occur in the online world before being copied by spoken.

 

Grammars and dictionaries are merely descriptions of the language.  They are always out of date as the language practises needs to be established and studied before they can be recorded.

 

Grammars and dictionaries do not prescribe how a language is written, let alone spoken, they merely describe it.  The language does not belong to the grammar books or dictionaries, and does not belong to the grammar teachers – or websites.  The language belongs to the people who use it.

 

Language changes and evolves over time, and it is through that verbal communication that it does.  Over time dialects will develop and ultimately new languages, and the grammars and dictionaries will reflect that.

 

The formal rules of written language describe a certain type of usage which is in effect its own dialect.  People learn the spoken dialect of their region and their generation, but then also need to learn the written dialect of their language.

 

It is certainly useful for people to write and spell in a similar way, but to criticise people for not getting their written grammar correct (the written dialect) is ignoring the content of what the person is trying to say.  Which is more important?  And English spelling is so mixed up and messed up, so full of antiquated spellings that no longer reflect the pronunciation of the word, that it is more the fault of the language than the speller, if someone cannot spell it.

 

 

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4 Comments to “WHAT IS IT WITH GRAMMAR NAZIS?”

  1. My new word is “cos” cos I’m always saying “because”, cos that’s rational, unlike fantasists who never say “because”.

    • Yes, good example of language changing; why stick to that antiquated, every so boringly l o n g way of writing that word, when most people actually say ‘cos’ (or ‘coz’ = American spelling), not b e – c a u s e. Who says because???

  2. I have to applaud your up to date and sensible notion of what is correct in language. You examine how language developed and the mistake many people make when they try to establish correctness.

    The fact is that there are quite a number of languages even within a given language. For instance I write historical fiction as my profession. There is a sort of rule about what constitutes correct grammar for any particular period. But even that is not cast in bronze.

    I wrote a novel called AN INVOLUNTARY KING which takes place in 8th century England. I got a loot of criticism from people who told me things like “There was no Anglo Saxon word for a pitcher.” I pointed out that there was not a single Anglo Saxon word in that whole book…In fact, if I had written the whole book in that language no one could have read it. No one speaks or reads Anglo Saxon from that period. So how, I ask, is a word meaning pitcher to be incorrect? I am still baffled by that criticism.

    Then there was the person who said it was incorrect for me to write, “‘Oh my God,’ he breathed.” The author who picked on that said I was using a speech tag. And that no one can “breathe” what they said. No but they can “breathe” and what’s more I was describing a breathy sort of speaking. Her book sucked anyway… it had two huge gaffes in the storyline leaving out important information. And she criticized my novel which in the introduction I explained was total and complete fiction with my sense of history from when my coauthor and I were all of 11 and 12.

    This is to say that there is no set way to write anything or say anything bearing in mind that others must understand you. If you don’t care if they do, say or write what you want, but if you do care make sure you explain the reason for what you are saying and writing.

    Unfortunately there will still be plenty of people who will complain.

    Kit Moss

    • Yes, exactly. When people come out with, ‘that is not proper English!’ I want to say to them that we should all speak and write in Anglo-Saxon should we? that way at least Alfred the Great might understand us, even if Henry II would have no hope.

      And anyway, of course, that is not where English began, we need to trawl right back to Indo-European – and no doubt back then the oldies complained about the young people’s language usage.

      As for your novel, written when you were 11/12, I have read it and really enjoyed it! It was great, [can’t remember the pitcher bit though, 🙂 ].

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