The Grammar Nazis

I often encounter people who make a big deal about spelling and grammar.  They insist that these issues are important, that a person who doesn’t use “correct” grammar and spelling is ignorant, or at least beneath notice.  I disagree with them.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

I’ve known many people whose language skills were deficient.  One particular group is those who are more skilled in science and math.  People talk about left and right brain.  That’s oversimplified, but there often is a predominance – a person skilled in language suffers in math, and vice versa.  So I’ve known bunches of engineers and other tech people who were highly intelligent, but didn’t do so well with English.  Despite their flawed language skills, these were worthwhile people.

It seems to me that some of this language elitism is based a desire to feel better than someone, to find a way to sneer at some people.  It is unnecessary and arbitrary.

Something many of these grammar snobs haven’t considered is that the so-called “rules” of grammar not only change over the years, but also from one place to another.  Different groups of people have different ways of speaking, and what is correct in one group is nonsense in another.

When I was a kid I was taught to capitalize many nouns – words like “north” and “south,” things like “Twentieth Century,” and so on.  Now that’s no longer required – in fact it may even be “wrong” now.  If I recall correctly, the past tense of “lead” was spelled, “lead,” and not “led.”  I could be wrong about that, but it’s how I remember it.  The plural for many words ending in “f” was to end in “ves.”  So hoof would become hooves, “roof” would become “rooves.”  No one does this any more.  Replacing “f” with “ves” seems to be on the way out.

What some people overlook is that language evolves.  It is not static.  With the advent of writing, and especially printing, changes in the language have become more apparent.  The newer usages have been considered “incorrect” because they don’t agree with the usages recorded in print.  Of course, as the world changes, our language describing it must also change.  It simply doesn’t make sense to pick some arbitrary standard, claim it is the only legitimate one, and judge others by how closely they adhere to that standard.

Unfortunately, the Grammar Nazis insist on doing just that.  My objections fall upon deaf ears.  How sad…

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