Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Short, Neck Pain Fueled Rant: Stop saying "grammar Nazi"

"I'm sure the grammar Nazis are going to come take me away."

Yes. Yes, people expecting you to follow the most basic rules of your native language with some reasonable fluency is just as bad as the Holocaust. That's such an apt comparison to make, I don't know why we didn't all think of it.

"Tee hee, I'm sorry, but I'm such a grammar Nazi!"

No, you're not. And why would you ever want to compare yourself to a Nazi, and be fucking proud of it? Are you under the mistaken impression that Nazis were totally awesome? You're trivializing a truly horrifying period in human history over how someone spelled some shit on Facebook. Knock it off.

FIN

55 comments:

  1. Yeah, I've never been fond of the term either. I've also been taught by life not to correct other people's spelling or grammar, so I haven't really had any contact with the term.

    Either way, I agree it's in very poor taste and should really die out already.

    Same with "feminazi", which I actually find pretty offensive.

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  2. Thank you for this. Same with "feminazi" and every other likewise inappropriate use of that word.

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  3. Yes! Call yourself a stickler, anal retentive, say it's your pet peeve, but drop the damn nazi part!

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  4. I prefer the term "grammar perfectionist."

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  5. I SO agree with you. And because I am an all-over pedant, not just a grammar one, it also annoys me, because the term "Nazi" is a shortened form of Nationalsozialist - national socialist. You're not a "grammar national socialist". It's not only offensive, it makes no fucking sense.

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  6. I once had the pleasure of editing a work of fiction written partly by someone who never capitalized anything and used the ellipses as his only form of punctuation. No period, no commas, no quote marks - just ellipses. I think he at least used a question mark occasionally. That was interesting.

    I do cringe when people say "put through the ringer" or write "wah-lah" instead of voila. But such is life. I generally don't correct them.

    PS - any special reason you took away the name/URL option for commenting? I liked that one.

    Caitlyn (ladyphlogiston)

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    1. No, I think it changed because of the layout. There was another thing that got lost too, like an option to subscribe with google reader? I have no idea and I can't get it back. But the good news is, literally everything else got fixed when we fled to the new format.

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    2. I cringe when people write or say "for all intensive purposes."

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    3. Right now at work I'm internalizing my rage over a new program with the worst grammar ever. Apparently we are supposed to make "Amazing Happen". Though how I'm supposed to give action to a modifier, no one has explained. Every time someone fron district or corporate talks to me about this, I have to almost literally bite my tongue. Because telling them their HR team are morons probably is not a great way to get a raise.

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    4. My latest one is people saying they are going to "frequent" a venue when they mean they are visiting it once and only once. It isn't the worst of linguistic sins, but it annoys me because pretty much every native English speaker knows that the *adjective* "frequent" means occuring regularly or often - so how are they missing the connection?

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  7. As a Jew who had extended family in Germany and Hungary during that time period, many of whom probably died, I can still find humor in the expression. It doesn't bother me.

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  8. Ironically, by telling people not to use the term you're being a kind of grammar nazi yourself.

    But yeah... the debate about offensive humour isn't particularly new, and I'm still leaning towards the position that anything can be funny and mocking horrible things diminishes their power. If you want to convince people otherwise a short rant just isn't enough, I'm afraid.

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    1. What a fantastic approach. Let me know how many Nazi jokes it takes to prevent further genocide and I will be on board. Or how many rape jokes it takes to stop rapists. Or how many racist jokes it takes to end racism. 'Cause we all know that the less seriously people take a topic, the more serious they get about about social justice.

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  9. My family uses the term "grammar police" when referring to me. I'm afraid I've got it bad. I get enraged over the "your" vs. "you're" thing. I've tried to trivialize the importance of being knowledgable in one's primary language, but I just can't get over it. It's important to me.

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    1. You're not alone. It drives me insane as well. Terms like "free gift" and "set of twins" drive me up the wall. >.> ...And no one seems to understand why I try to choke them when they ask me were something is "at." >.< Oooohhh....

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    2. "Where is it at?" ----> Answer: "Preposition Street." Ahh, AP English and your witty quips... ;)

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    3. I got my friend a birthday card with a photo of two girls with speech bubbles saying, "Where's your party at?" and "Don't end a sentence with a preposition." Then inside the card, the first girl is saying, "Where's your party at, BITCH?"

      My friend thought it was hilarious.

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    4. Prepositions are my big pet peeve! I hate that I have to commit this grammer sin to avoid sounding pretentious and being teased by family and friends. The turning point was a former friend defriending me on Facebook and then in real life because I wouldn't stop.

      There's a hilarious scene in the Beavis & Butthead movie where an agent is trying to phrase the boys' activity and where without ending with a preposition.

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    5. Arguing that prepositions can never be at the end of sentence is one of my number one pet peeves. It smacks of knowing grammar rules without understanding the purpose of grammar. Some grammar rules are arbitrary or nonsensical, because of who (academics) develops these rules.

      Irregardless is an abomination, however.

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  10. And I no longer see an option for anonymous. I like that option sometimes, especially when it comes to using a personal experience I don't want broadcast to make a point. Is it gone for everyone else, too?

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    1. Um, not in about five minutes, because that's one I can actually change.

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    2. Actually, that brought back the name/URL option as well :) thanks!

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  11. In the immortal words of fandom_wank, "nothing is like the Nazis". There's a reason Godwin's Law is a thing.

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  12. There are a great many of these glib phrases that have worked their way into our lexicon that I find absolutely horrible. "Drinking the Kool-aid" (sp? Never actually spelled that before) is another. People made a choice between two ways to die at Jamestown. The Kool-aid was less horrible than being gunned down as you tried to escape. So if you drank it, you DIED. I hate that phrase. And everyone who uses it.

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    1. You know what? I've never made the connection between "drink the Kool-aid" and Jonestown until just now. Mostly because it happened before I was born, and by the time I heard it used, I thought it was just some routine way a lot of cults used to commit ritual suicide. I feel totally dumb now, and actually, oddly pedantic. Why is the phrase "Drink the Kool-aid?" They used Flavor-aid at Jonestown. It's like, man, if we're going to trivialize the brainwashing and murder of nine hundred people, can't we even get the brand name correct? Jesus.

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    2. Everything I need to know in life I learned from PBS.

      I feel the same about the brand name, too.

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    3. Can I have your next baby somehow? The Kool-Aid/Flavor-aid mix-up irks me. It was grape Flavor-aid.

      Apple employees call it "drinking the Apple juice" when someone becomes a big fan of the products.

      It does reach a point when a phrase becomes so disconnected from its roots that it's hard to argue the phrase is somehow wrong or insensitive. Nazis are still "a thing," and we have skin-heads still in America. But so many people either forgot about or never knew about Jonestown and Flavor-aid, yet use the phrase often.

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    4. I think it falls in the whole living memory thing. Just because no one who was an actual slave is still alive in America does not make it OK to be glib about it. There are people that escaped who are still alive.

      But regardless, they are using it completely wrong. It should mean 'follow along without question' as in like a lemming or "I hate you, drink some Kool-Aid". It is mostly used to mean liking something.

      And I only just realized, I typed Jamestown. I do know it was Jonestown. I should never post late night. Don't judge me, please.

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    5. Hmm,all of you folks are making me feel very old. Jonestown happened "before you were born"? Yikes, I guess most people here don't remember TMI or Chernobyl.

      Nevertheless, to get back to the topic. My personal gripe is with people who can't distinguish between their, there and they're. And also with people who say, "I could care less". So, then it is somewhat important to you because you could possibly care less about it?

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    6. Hmm,all of you folks are making me feel very old. Jonestown happened "before you were born"? Yikes, I guess most people here don't remember TMI or Chernobyl.

      Nevertheless, to get back to the topic. My personal gripe is with people who can't distinguish between their, there and they're. And also with people who say, "I could care less". So, then it is somewhat important to you because you could possibly care less about it?

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  13. It's funny you bring up this subject, because I'm currently in two linguistic classes that have something to do with each other on occasion (historical linguistics and grammar of English). There's a difference between using the actual rules and the prescriptive rules (rules that are "extra" and sometimes imposed from Latin rules) of English. But I personally have never liked the term "grammar nazi"...

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  14. That actually sounds fascinating. Can you give us an example or two?

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    1. This was meant to be a reply to Hailey, above. Must have hit the wrong button.

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  15. I might be in love with you. I've been saying this for years!! I'm also a car seat tech, and my passion for trying to keep children safe in cars (which are, by the way, the number one cause of death for ages 1-14) apparently also ranks me right up there with the Gestapo. I find it horribly offensive and dismissive of the ACTUAL tragedy perpetrated by ACTUAL Nazis.

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  16. Does anyone else hate it when people misuse the term "sic" or even worse, "sic?" to mean "I think I might have spelled that wrongly." No, it means someone else spelled it wrongly, but I'm quoting them faithfully rather than correcting their spelling.

    Just me, then :)

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  17. The use of the term 'Grammar Nazi' makes me [sic].

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  18. Sorry. Old, poor joke, but it had to be done.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Mine is when speaking people say "l seen a ...." It's I have seen or I saw people (this might just be an Australian thing).

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    1. I say "I seen a," LOL, but it's pretty common to my local dialect (rural Michigander), but I try hard not to say it. Sometimes I get excited though, like "t'other day I seen a bald eagle runnin' around in a hayfield!"

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    2. "I seen" is used so often around me that I've rationalized it to them saying "I've seen". They just don't pronounce the "v" sound is all.

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  21. I agree with this, but I also hate prescriptivism, terms like "proper" English, and the idea that anything outside of what the white man has deemed "correct" English is just drivel/stupidity/something to judge people on. So...I'm a grammar hippie, I guess.

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    1. Well said. Me, too!

      But re JT's point, I think in the wake of Jerry Seinfeld's Soup Nazi and Wedndy Wassterstein's Nipple Nazis that it's a losing battle. It's entered the lexicon. You may find it distatesful, and you certainly have a vaild point. Through pointing it out and through education you can raise awareness. But--and forgive me, JT, because I love you--I get really turned off by what I see as self-righteous, holier than thou PC shaming, which is rampant in America. (It's possible that I notice it more because I don't live in the US but I see it is a veritable cultural phenom. It's why I stopped reading xojane.) You may have just been in a bad mood--and more power to you; I've been there--but that's the way the tone of this post comes off to me. You have a point, but there are more persuasive, less alienating ways of making it. I think.

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    2. Sorry, that should be Wendy Wasserstein! The late, great Wendy Wasserstein. She wrote a wonderful article in The New Yorker many years ago about her premature daughter, in which she referred to the pressure to breastfeed brigade as nipple nazis.

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    3. I think most rants come off as self-righteous, but that's part of what makes you feel relief post rant. There are times when a person wants to create an open dialogue and affect positive change... and then there are times when a person is just annoyed and wants to let off steam about something they find fucking obnoxious.

      Wasserstein's Nipple Nazi has been turned into Boob Nazi by the internet, because I guess nipple was too hardcore a term or something.

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  22. I understand what you mean and definitely agree, even though I have found myself throwing around terms like "Nazi" and "drinking the Kool-Aid." Negative terms/phrases like these have become ingrained in the lexicon of our culture and used so often by many in the media and in our social circles that it can be second nature to throw these types of terms around without a thought as to their context.

    In doing some research and reflection, I can see the "why" behind why this happens.

    I think it's human nature to take horrible events and people and view them in a way that lessons their power. I don't believe we mean to trivialize the Holocaust or the Jonestown Massacre or any other horrific time in human history. I believe it is our way--as a society--to take away the evil power of these words and events. By making them our own, we are telling the Nazis that you have no power over us anymore. We know what you are, and your beliefs, your actions have no ability to render fear in us. We will never let this happen again.

    It's like Mel Brooks creating a song about the Inquisition where Jewish men are chained up and singing while their torturers tap dance in his movie The History of the World. It's like Monty Python showing bodies being wheeled away during the Black Death and an annoying sick man won't just die. I'm sure hundreds of years ago, the people who went through these events wouldn't appreciate this humor. But through humor, we are gaining power over this ugly chapter in human history. We have the last laugh.

    Although I agree with what you've said, I only wanted to add some perspective on why we tend to do and say things like this.

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    1. No, I understand why people do it, but I guess I'm in the camp that kind of feel like "We're not letting it have power over us!" is a cop out. First of all, what is this power? If I don't make fun of Nazis or trivialize that time period, are Nazis going to show up outside my house? What is this "power" going to do to us? Second, shouldn't the Nazis remain powerful in our minds? Because it wasn't even a century ago. Survivors are still alive. And something truly awful should remain truly awful if the corollary is that being an object of everyday ridicule robs something of its importance.

      As for Mel Brooks, he's Jewish and he was actually in a combat division during WWII, so if he wants to make jokes about it, he gets pass. He was there, he was a part of actively resisting the Nazis. Plus, there's a clear difference, I believe, between casually incorporating humor about something terrible into our every day vocabularies and staging an elaborate parody of something. Especially in the way Brooks does it; you're fully aware that you're laughing at something terrible, and that's the point. When you're saying, "Drink the kool-aid," it's a bit different, because it's a colloquialism that has lost its original intent to the point that people don't even know what it means anymore.

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    2. The power is fear. Making something scary into a joke takes away fear. It's like the Riddukulus spell from Harry Potter. But you have to feel/understand the fear for it to have any relevance.

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    3. We fear some things for a reason, though. Fear isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's okay to be afraid of poisonous snakes and angry bears and tornados and Nazis. These are things we should be afraid of. But I find it difficult to believe that if someone is walking around in actual, crippling fear of national socialism that has real power over their lives, then they solve this problem by self-applying the term Nazi to criticize someone else's grammar.

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  23. I get what you're saying, and it's a good point. However, most of these phrases are not being used in the way you suggest. They are being thrown around in a thoughtless and careless manner, and that's dangerous.

    There are so many, "drinking the Kool-Aid", "going postal", "...Nazi" etc. And sadly people have forgotten where they originate. It's not likely we will ever forget who and what the Nazis were, but in 30 years time will it be OK to say "I'm gonna go Sandy Hoak on these kids"?

    I don't want us to PC ourselves into silence, but one should always think about what you say. You are responsible for it.

    I'm glad you mentioned the Spanish Inquisition, because (sorry for bringing FSOG into this) but I hate it when she uses the phrase "Kavanaugh Inquisition". Is she being stretched on the rack? Are there thumbscrews or the boot involved? It has been said, but I'll say it again, how crappy is Ana that questions from a friend equates to torture?

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    1. Yes, exactly! Once something is an everyday occurrence, it loses its meaning. Satire is one thing, colloquialism is another. Satire and humor require the audience to have some understanding of the events that are being joked about. Many colloquialisms we use in English have long-forgotten meanings, or meanings known only to people who study the language.

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