Monday, February 16, 2009

Grammar snob

Hello, my name is Tova, and I'm a grammar snob.

As you may know, I have a degree in writing. That means that I took quite a few classes in editing and grammar. It also means that I'm a tad bit particular about proper use of the English language. I even have a favorite punctuation mark. (I'm not joking; I love semicolons.) Around my office, I'm known as the Comma Queen. Any time we're publishing a new piece of informational literature, it's given to me first, and inevitably, I cross out 75 commas and then insert 75 more in different places. (One of my coworkers recently sent me the following email, which I am not making up, after he asked me to proofread something for him: "Excellent. You're like a grammar nazi. I love it!") It's a sickness. (In college, I got in an argument with a girl who was mad that I was dating her best friend's ex-boyfriend, and she called me "grammar b*tch." True story.)

Does this mean that everything I write is always 100% grammatically correct? Heck, no. I may be a grammar snob, but I'm not infallible. Does this mean that I judge you if you use commas or semicolons incorrectly? Definitely not. Does it mean that I judge people who speak using grammar that even a third grader knows is incorrect? Absolutely (unless the speaker is in second grade).

On Saturday, I overheard two examples of this, and I was so annoyed that I subjected Mr. Darling to a ten-minute-long tirade about how people sound like morons when they intentionally speak incorrectly. First, I was in line to exchange something at Target, and the woman in front of me was mad because she was trying to return some things without a receipt, and the store wouldn't take them back. In a fit of anger, she shouted, "Look! I brung you two things. I brung you this game, and I brung you this sweater. I want my money back for the things I brung!" I wanted to scream, "BROUGHT! You brought back two things!" But I didn't, because the woman was really mad and also a lot bigger than me. Later, Mr. Darling and I went to the movies, and the woman in front of us in the ticket line asked her friend, "Was you going to get popcorn before the movie started?" And again, I bit my tongue.

Here's the thing: punctuation can be difficult, but basic grammar is something that you can learn by watching Sesame Street. To learn all of the rules of punctuation, you need to go to school. To learn to use "brought" instead of "brung," you can just watch a few episodes of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, The Office, or Gossip Girl. You can also learn proper grammar by reading People magazine or by listening to the radio. So when people speak incorrectly, it's really just sheer laziness, as far as I'm concerned. And so it really, really annoys me when people choose not to use proper English. Am I a jerk? Perhaps. But why do people insist upon speaking incorrectly when it's every bit as easy to use proper grammar? Your thoughts?

40 comments:

Anne said...

My mother is the queen of the double negative. It makes me grind my teeth - she just doesnt care and I ALWAYS CORRECT HER and she hates it. But I agree with you - it doesn't take much effort to speak correctly - So I correct her and hope someday she will heed my advice.
I toss commas about like a flower girl in a wedding - but grammar I can do.
new to your blog - I like it!

Mrs. Newlywed said...

ohh I am the SAME WAY.

I do not end sentences with prepositions even when I speak. I love semicolons, colons, commas, and ellipses when used correctly.

I do not change verb tenses [except sometimes in my blog], speak in the third person, or use "they" when referring to a single person.

Fabulously Broke said...

You done brung a goodish point about no nos in society.

Just kidding.

It does irk me, but I don't care because I do try not to overuse punctuation and slap grammar with smelly day old fish when I speak or write.

B.E. Earl said...

I posted about being a snob today too. Weird.

Of course, my post was about booze.

WV: baboynce = beyonce's baby?

S. said...

Ha, this is great. I am somewhat of a grammar snob myself. The nerd in me loves to proof read! lol

LegalMist said...

I agree with Mrs. Newlywed -- ending sentences with propositions is exactly the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put!!!

(With apologies to whatever famous person -- was it Churchill? -- who first uttered that gem.)

No seriously, I agree with you on the basic grammar. I hate it when folks can't be bothered to use proper verb tenses or when they spew incorrect constructions such as "ain't got none" or "they is."

But, although I correct my kids, I would never correct a stranger. It's impolite as well as way too likely to lead to me being pummelled.

Impulsive Addict said...
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Sassy Britches said...

I'm so with you on this. In my blog, I tend towards run-on sentences with lots of commas, and I start many of my sentences with "and." But in real life, I'm soooo big on proper grammar and punctuation!

Impulsive Addict said...

I live in Oklahoma....don't you judge me yet! Most people appear to only be educated up to the 5th grade. I think they drop out around that time to start having babies or start making meth labs in their home/trailer. (Note: I grew up here and finished college here so I don't feel that I fall into these categories!)

However, what freakin' amazes me is the amount of "hick-talk" that goes on in smaller towns (like my current place of residence). It's embarrassing!

I'm a teacher as well and bad grammar is a no-no.

**I found a mistake and had to delete and start again!

adlibby said...

Me too! Me too! Although you'd never know it by following my blog. I write it like I hear it in my head. Do you know what drives me bats? Businessmen who are complete idiots when it comes to writing (and there are SO many!) How do they hold down jobs when they can't write a simple paragraph? Grrrrrr.

Island Girl said...

Oh my gosh! That's just sad.

I have a friend that spells words incorrectly on purpose and it drives me crazy. Most of the time I don't even know what he's trying to say, and then I look stupid for saying, "What does that mean?"

Catrina said...

haha - This cracks me up because just the other day, me and hubs got into a discussion about his use of the apostrophe in words like "don't", "didn't", "isn't". He was putting "do'nt", "did'nt", "is'nt". I flipped out. ;)

Bella@That damn expat said...

You're not a jerk. Basic grammar is important.

As English isn't my first language I've always been a little too conscious of the grammar mistakes I might be making.

Morgan the Muse said...

Well, I know that it is the environment that you are in, as well. My mother stumbles over 'was' or 'were' a lot. I, in turn,often get confused and say whichever that comes out. I am certain that her parents said the same things. It is hard to not say it when you have heard it like that... But I think I am better at typing than I am at speaking.

Cathy said...

You are definitely not a jerk. Bad grammar really bothers me as well. I try not to have any punctuation mistakes in my blog, but I'm really fond of ellipses...whether or not they are used correctly :)

Call Me Cate said...

Another vote for "not a jerk". I have a coworker that insists on making personal calls all day. That's bad enough but his grammar is awful as well. He drives me absolutely insane. "Brung" is one of his words. I cringe just thinking about it.

MuseSwings said...

She said brung? Everone knows it's brang ex-pecially me. ex-cetera. I get twitchy when people type "alot". 'Sposed to have 2 t's, right?

Kim said...

I have to agree! It drives me crazy to hear people use double negatives. I taught 4th grade for 3 years, and I totally stressed the importance of speaking proper English. My MIL and I totally got into an argument one night about the word deer! IT IS BOTH PLURAL AND SINGULAR!!!!! To this day she makes sure she says, "Be careful I say a bunch of deers crossing the road." Or any statement about deer just to piss me off!

Megan said...

OMGoodness! I hear ya loud and clear! I'm not a grammar snob. I'm lucky if I can get something correct. But the English language is not difficult to speak. Drives. Me. Nuts.

And I live in Washington. It makes me INSANE when people *that live here* pronounce it WARshington. There is no 'R' in Washington, people!

Former Fat Chick said...

Oh Darling...my chil'rens has been reared in the South 'n theys consistintly saying "I'm fittin to go home, Ax yo momma, if y'all can come"

Oh, sweet baby Jesus!

Emma said...

Thank you, for making me smile, and saying everything that I believe is oh, so true!

RB said...

I am a Creative Writing major, and I just started picking up on intentional bad grammar!!

goodfinking.com said...

Brung? Reminds me of one of the best movie lines ev-AH: "Bring it!" "Oh, it's been brought-en." Ha ha. There are tons of people out there who wax poetic about the evolution of language yadda yadda but I'm with you: if you can't handle basic, proper language, then shaddap yo' mouth.

goodfinking.com said...

Oops. And by *language, I mean *grammar.

(Shutting up MY mouth now.)

Smalls said...

I can't pretend my English is perfect, but I'm with you anyway. I hate when people throw around inappropriate conjugation like it's a hot potato.

wendy said...

I, too, am a major grammar snob. My friends always ask if it bothers me when they send emails and such because they are grammatically incorrect. My answer is usually no; however, (and, yes - I do love the semi-colon as well) it bugs the holy heck out of me when people use improper grammar. I hate when someone says, "You got a pen?" What the heck is that?! My answer is either, "Excuse me?" or "No, I don't HAVE a pen."

My second biggest pet peeve is the so-called word "hisself."

Cheryl said...

I HATE it when people write things like, "dat iz 2 kewl! ROFL" in chats.
What the hell does that even mean?!

Alicia @ Oh2122 said...

I don't know why they keep saying these rediculous things, but I can tell you this.

I may not be grammatically perfect, but the next person who says "irreguardless" within earshot is going to get a size 7 1/2 red patent ballet flat to the back of their head.

If they're lucky.

It may be a Hawt Mama Shoe Day, in which case it's going to be 4 inches of righteous indignation to the temple.

missBee said...

Oh gosh, I hate, HATE when people speak incorrectly! Pet peave. Especailly when they say you's instead of you.

raf said...

It must be painful for your eyes to read my posts..(well, if you read them)..but I suppose that because I'm not english or american..you can forgibve me!

Former Fat Chick said...
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Girl On A Journey said...

I live in a country where we have "dialect" - a broken form of english so you get alot of people using what would typically be bad grammar for everybody else. Like you, its one of my pet peeves and I find myself stuggling to hold my tongue too lol...ummm did i punctuate properly. I would hate that my firt comment ever on your blog was not punctuated properly :-I

Cora said...

What I can't stand is when someone says "supposably" - it drives me nuts! I want to scream "SUPPOSEDLY!" Hello?!

ÄsK AliCë said...

I LOVE semi-colons; I use them as often as I can!

My biggest pet peeve is when people say supposABLY I feel like yelling supposeDly!! SUPPOSEDLY! (I just noticed that Cora commented about the exact same thing - weird)

A lot of my friends get me to proof read their essays/schoolwork/assignments and I love doing it.

We're dorks.

~E said...

Oh thank GOD! I thought it was just me!

Rather than biting my tongue and possibly making my head explode, I've learned to just tune everyone out.

Mrs4444 said...

I find editing to be one of my favorite things to do; it's wonderfully relaxing and my favorite way to procrastinate. I do make typos on my blog, but I prefer to focus on other people's mistakes :)

Ryan Ashley Scott@Optimistic Cynicism said...

Have I mentioned before that I despise my in-laws? You would have a field day listening to them "speak." I have actually written down some of the things they've said. It's that bad.

Maybe it's a new language. We'll call it Idiot.

Poetica said...

hehe, I love your writing style! This post was such a funny and entertaining read. I'll definitely be visiting your blog more often!

sarah said...

I judge people who misspell common words (like board/bored, course/coarse) if they've had post-secondary education. I also REALLY hate when people spell "definitely" "defiantly" or any other varient. Pisses me off SO EFFING MUCH.

Yes, I judge you. No, I don't feel bad. YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER!

sarah said...

shiate.

That's "variant" , not "varient".

See what I mean about the edit feature?

In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks. ~ Calvin & Hobbes