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Old 10-31-2013   #1
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Grammar

I'm an English major. I'm just an undergrad student, but I've been studying English for the last four years. So I at least have some authority when I say that so-called "grammar nazis" are full of shit.

Anyone who says that bad spelling annoys them, or gets frustrated when someone misuses "literally" or "ironic," probably doesn't understand enough about language to know why none of that matters.

Language only has meaning because the majority of people in a community understand it. So if the majority of people understand you when you say "literally," but you mean the exact opposite of what "literally" traditionally means (i.e. "I literally could eat a whole horse"), then there is nothing wrong with it.

The established rules of English don't go back all that far, and if you have ever read Chaucer or Beowulf you know how flexible language is. Here are a couple of lines from Chaucer:

"To thee clepe I, thou goddesse of torment, / Thou cruel Furie, sorwing ever in peyne;"

That's Middle English. Here are some lines from Beowulf:

"HwŠt! We Gardena in geardagum, / ■eodcyninga, ■rym gefrunon, / hu ­a Š■elingas ellen fremedon."

That's Old English. Most people call Shakespeare "Old English," but he's actually writing in modern English.

So, as you can see, language is flexible. It changes over time based on how people use it. The common way to put it is: language is descriptive, not prescriptive. That means that language describes how people speak, rather than tells people how to speak.

One of my favourite things to do is correct somebody who considers him or herself a grammar nazi, because I know that in almost all cases I know more about the English language than they do. None of the academics I know who have studied the English language to the extent that I have has any issues with people misspelling or misusing words because, when you know enough about it, you know that it doesn't matter. Language isn't a fixed system. It isn't universal. It's defined by the people who use it. As long as we all understand each other, it's all valid.

So, before you freak out about somebody using the wrong form of there/their/they're, or saying "that's ironic" to describe something that is definably not ironic, remember that we're defining these words as we go. If we want to "respect the language," as some people put it, we should all be asking "Hwelcne craft canst ■u?"

Anything else is a bastardization of the language.


If you don't agree with any of the above, here's a quick test to determine whether or not you're qualified to critique someone else's grammar:

Do you know the difference between who and whom?
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Old 10-31-2013   #2
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Re: Grammar

Are you saying that if I know the proper use of "whom" vs. "who", then I can bitch about people's grammar? Because I've read Strunk and White cover to cover. =P

If you resort to critiquing someone's grammar to discredit their argument, then you're an asshole.

However, you also cannot hope to be accepted as a professional or academic without a basic understanding of spelling and grammar. Language is communication: grammar's importance depends highly on the importance of the idea being communicated.

My cousin saying "your not going to believe my costume this year" on Facebook doesn't bother me at all, but spelling mistakes in a published journal article show a lack of professionalism (and the possibility of your reader not understanding your meaning). I realize that English has evolved, but modern grammar and spelling are not so hard.

That being said, the rule that prohibits ending a sentence with a preposition is just so, so stupid.

P.S. If you live anywhere near Southern California, The Huntington Library has an illuminated Chaucer on display. It is exquisite.
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Old 10-31-2013   #3
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Re: Grammar

I agree that grammar and spelling have their place in academic and professional writing, because of the mentality already surrounding the two fields. But there is a difference between ignorance of the rules and breaking them knowingly. e. e. cummings can get away with not using capitalization because we can all assume that he's well aware of how he's subverting that convention.

Like you said, someone making a mistake on Facebook shouldn't bother anyone to the extent that self-proclaimed grammar nazis claim it does. Generally, those grammar nazis don't know nearly as much as they pretend to. I like correcting them just to knock them off their high horse.
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Old 10-31-2013   #4
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Re: Grammar

Fuck spelling and fuck grammar, because most of the time people talk to each other. You don't read words when people are talking.

But I do like seeing a sentence with periods and commas.

Punctuation is only good if you're writing a book or a poem. Otherwise, to hell with spelling and grammar. Naw mean? U kno.
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Old 10-31-2013   #5
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Re: Grammar

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Originally Said by Sir Kent View Post
I agree that grammar and spelling have their place in academic and professional writing, because of the mentality already surrounding the two fields. But there is a difference between ignorance of the rules and breaking them knowingly. e. e. cummings can get away with not using capitalization because we can all assume that he's well aware of how he's subverting that convention.

Like you said, someone making a mistake on Facebook shouldn't bother anyone to the extent that self-proclaimed grammar nazis claim it does. Generally, those grammar nazis don't know nearly as much as they pretend to. I like correcting them just to knock them off their high horse.
I like to get grammar nazis by using effect (properly) as a verb. They get so annoyed.
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Old 10-31-2013   #6
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Re: Grammar

Quote:
Originally Said by Sir Kent View Post
I agree that grammar and spelling have their place in academic and professional writing, because of the mentality already surrounding the two fields. But there is a difference between ignorance of the rules and breaking them knowingly. e. e. cummings can get away with not using capitalization because we can all assume that he's well aware of how he's subverting that convention.

Like you said, someone making a mistake on Facebook shouldn't bother anyone to the extent that self-proclaimed grammar nazis claim it does. Generally, those grammar nazis don't know nearly as much as they pretend to. I like correcting them just to knock them off their high horse.
I don't think it makes you a grammar nazi to be irked by a misuse of "your/you're" or "their/there/they're." Those rules are pretty simple. If you don't know them by the time you've graduated elementary school--unless you've led a troubled existence--that's pretty sad. Even in informal writing, those errors are annoying and sloppy. Errors like that add nothing to the language; all they add is incoherency and gaudiness. If you're going to write, write correctly, if you can. Why wouldn't you? What is the benefit of sloppy writing other than to teach yourself bad habits and likely lead to errors in formal writing when it is required?

It's one thing to write like that because you don't care or if you're writing in an informal context; it's another thing to write like that because you actually don't know any better and are just too lazy to "research" some of the most basic rules of the English language. The argument that English has evolved has validity, but what is the benefit of those specific errors--or errors like them--that are nonsensical (as with "your/you're")? How do those changes benefit the language?

Enh. Just offering a contrary opinion.
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Old 11-05-2013   #7
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Re: Grammar

Well, the non-literal definition of "literally" has recently been accepted as a viable definition because it is so widely used. And we have folks like Stephen Colbert inventing terms like Wikiality that are now in our dictionaries. So language is pretty malleable.

But, yeah, there's something to be said for consciously subverting grammar as opposed to making grammar mistakes. If I don't know the accepted difference between their/there/they're, that's a fault of learning. If I intentionally use the wrong from, then at least I know what is accepted. But, the thing is, it's still based on accepted forms. I'm stupid if I don't know the proper form of its/it's because it has been crammed down our throats since elementary school. But it's only cultural in the sense that it is being artificially upheld. If we never standardized the English language, none of this would matter.

And I do believe that colloquial language is 100% acceptable and it is racist to disagree. So, all you southerners can terk lerk howerver y'all wernt.
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Old 12-04-2013   #8
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Re: Grammar

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Old 06-30-2014   #9
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Re: Grammar

Regarding the OP about the word "ironic", Merriam Webster has offered up some input about that.
What 'Ironic' Really Means

Language is indeed fluid. That is how many languages have acquired many loan words from other languages with the rise of the internet. There is different language usage for different scenarios though. Casual conversations often sound different than business communications. I am fairly lax with casual communications. However, I have little patience for collegiate textbooks that repeatedly violate the known rules for correct English usage. I do find this hilarious... this causes fire to the retinas of grammar buffs everywhere:

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Old 07-01-2014   #10
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Re: Grammar

Wait, can ironic mean stupid? lol
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Old 07-01-2014   #11
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Re: Grammar

Who knows? I haven't really seen it used that way, but with words gaining new meaning everyday maybe it can. Someday the interwebs might declare this to be the new definition for ironic and the song Ironic will be passed around as an insult to let folks know just how ironic they really are.
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Old 07-17-2014   #12
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Re: Grammar

Also, this is awesome.

Word Crimes
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Old 07-17-2014   #13
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Re: Grammar

What is it?
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Old 07-21-2014   #14
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Re: Grammar

Quote:
Originally Said by Nami View Post
Also, this is awesome.

Word Crimes
After studying English for four years, the pedantry of most people's "grammar naziism" gets under my skin. Even this Weird Al video bugs me, because anyone who really gets language knows that it's descriptive rather than proscriptive. The rules only exist until enough people break them.
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Old 07-31-2014   #15
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Re: Grammar

Nami... my god.... have you no mercy? Why would you inflict such pain and agony on me?!
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Old 08-03-2014   #16
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Old 08-03-2014   #17
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Re: Grammar

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Old 08-05-2014   #18
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Re: Grammar

Lol, that was a good follow up.
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Old 08-07-2014   #19
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Re: Grammar

Butt farts stinky fat slappy swingers

Translation: There may be reasonable limits to your theory, Sir Kent.
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