Friday, January 16, 2009

Confessions of a Grammar Snob

While checking blogs today, I came across this lovely ditty by Jen. And I couldn't keep myself from writing a lengthy list of grammatical pet peeves in her comments section. And then it hit me, I'm not what I think I am.

You see, when acquaintances find out what I do for a living, their responses are usually a combination of the following: "I loved/hated English! My teacher _________________ was such a good teacher/so difficult to please. I guess I should watch my grammar around you, eh?" My response is typically, "Oh, don't do that. Really, I don't care. Speak as you will. No judgment here." And it is true that I don't want to judge people for their grammatical misunderstandings and language blunders. I've long thought, "I'm not one of those English teachers who judges everybody else's grammar."

But, in all honesty, I am.

Now, when people speak, I'm (a bit) less apt to care. I've been known in the deep recesses of my past to say "your guys'" (I am from Utah, afterall). I may drop an "ain't" every now and again for style's sake. But when writing, I believe the standard rules of English ought to be followed. Punctuation marks aren't there to confuse, they're set in place to add deeper meaning, emphasis and influx. Subjects and verbs were intended to agree. And when that doesn't happen, I wince a wee little bit. Against my will, usually. My better judgment says, "Oh, what does it matter?" My inner-grammar snob says, "NO! Not again! Why must the public be so ignorant of the very language they speak?" And the more mistakes, blunders, and errors made, the harsher I judge (if I am not particularly fond of the person this becomes quite a pleasant activity, in fact).

It is awful. It is snobby and offensive. I am probably losing friends as I write this. But I cannot help myself. Once you know better, these things flash out at you in painful, wincing clarity.

So, next time you write something, read over it once with my eyeballs. If you feel like, while writing, you are making TAMN at Seriously So Blessed seem spot on as opposed to exaggerated, maybe you could read more (stuff that's been through an edit or two, not just blogs). Or research the conventional rules of the English language. Maybe you could have someone you trust edit your work (I'm not volunteering myself--I have a full time job that, while it doesn't pay much, pays me more than you would for doing this).

And maybe I should just shut my mouth. No maybe. I just should.

OH, and my family is NPR-famous. Over the holidays, my mom went to visit my sister and family back East and they made it on my favorite radio station. To listen to their five minutes of fame, go here. Woo hoo family!


Wemdu Pea said...

I can't say a word...and you know it. But geese!

Melissa said...

You rock! I love you!

silvernic said...

Did Wemdu Pea just say something about geese? The poor, innocent birds that bring down large aircraft in New York.

"Subjects and verbs were intended to agree. And when that doesn't happen, I wince a wee little bit. Against my will, usually."

A couple of comments, if I may: "were" implies that they are no longer intended to agree (which is contrary to the intent of your essay), your second sentence begins with what I like to call a floating conjunction, and the third sentence, well, it's not exactly a sentence, is it?

Will you still be my friend? I don't have many left. Even my two-year-old is becoming annoyed by my constant corrections.

The Rookie said...

Nic, "geese" is an inside family joke--that particular Wemdu Pea sister cannot spell to save her life.

And you will always be the grammar god of the defunct poetry group. We all bow down. I am only your friend because you force it on me as is the smug nature of demigods.

The Rookie said...

Oh, and mister "I know grammar better than you," it is here where I play the "I know the rules well enough to break them" card.

Jen said...

Dearest Rookie,

U R the BEST. i <3 u.


Rie Pie said...

I have a reading disorder with decoding syllables or single words and associating them with specific sounds, or to make it more simple, I have major issues with phonics. Instead of being able to sound out a word, I have to memorize it. (which we know I have the memory of a goldfish) And being known as a book worm to my friends and a creative writer to my teachers is a thing I'm proud of. And something I've never had a natural talent at.

The fact that you can see other's flaws in grammar helps aid you in being the wonderful teacher that you are. So snob on. Because some of us do need the help! :)

Heidi said...

I have never claimed to be a great writer. I make mistakes. Like me or not. I will still like you, no matter what!

The Rookie said...

Oh, Heid-o, I've known you far too long to not love ya to pieces! And you are a better writer than you think. Trust me.

Rosanna said...

Hey!! It was so nice to hear from you! I'm glad Stephanie had a link to my web page, and has a link to yours on her page. Keep in touch! I'd love to hear how everything is going for you and for Amber.

Take Care,