Are you a Grammar Snob?


If you’re a proud grammar snob, the leftwing Guardian’s Mona Chalabi wants you to know that you’re simply a wealthy, white racist trying to silence minority voices like hers in order to maintain your wealthy, white, racist power imbalance.

In the short video above, Chalabi attempts to suggest that grammar rules don’t even exist in the real world, only in the condescending minds of wealthy, white racists.

She acknowledges the “grammar snob’s” argument that everyone needs a common set of rules that everyone can understand, but attempts to rebut this by saying such rules aren’t commonly held at all — “they’re just their rules.” This is the linguistic equivalent of the left’s argument that morality itself is just an arbitrary construct; it is typical of their relentless assault on standards of any kind in order to deconstruct and delegitimize Western culture.

She attempts to demonstrate this by pointing out that the words “literally” and “figuratively” are becoming interchangeable in common usage (which is sadly true) and therefore “some Elizabethan definition of correctness” about them is meaningless and outdated. The fact is that if you use those two antonyms interchangeably, it does matter, because you are diluting the meaning of your statement and creating confusion in the minds of your readers or listeners.

Chalabi claims that there is no confusion about those or other commonly interchangeable terms like “less” and “fewer,” because everyone knows what you mean even when you get them wrong. As a former English teacher (and current white, albeit not wealthy, grammar snob), I can tell you that this is a common excuse: “But you know what I meant.” On the contrary, if you want people to know what you mean, it is crucial to strive for precision of language and grammar; a habit of imprecision leads to breakdowns of communication.

“It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance in grammar snobbery,” she continues, getting to the crux of her argument. “The people pointing out those mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, white, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension. All too often, it’s a way to silence people, and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up.”

Rather interestingly, another recent study revealed that people who pick on spelling and grammar as commenters on websites are, in general, the kinds of people who cause friction and disharmony.

It appears that if you can’t listen to people without placing strict requirements on how they address you, you are also likely to be less tolerant in a general sense.

I found it interesting that research had backed up what I had intuitively observed for a couple of decades – that highlighting spelling or grammar almost always derails a conversation, especially online.   This is why it is considered unwanted behaviour here.

Some of this is practical: people may not be the greatest typist, may have arthritis, may not see well, may have English as a second language, may be on their third wine or may be very tired. None of it should matter as long as the message is understood.

Some of you, I know, find it very hard to let those things slide, and you don’t necessarily mean to put others down, but in a large group of people with varied background in age, education and experience, it’s better to focus on the message and not highlight the static.

Interesting that Truth Revolt see this as a left-wing thing. In my experience, the put downs that come from not accepting people’s written language as it is presented don’t have a political bent. It’s a favourite way to troll and put down others all over the internet, and an absolutely 100% effective way to drag a conversation off-topic.


– Pete


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • JLS

    Precision in anything takes discipline, consistency, effort, and a will to improve oneself, attributes which can also make you wealthy and confident in yourself, unlike laziness and looking to blame others for your situation.

  • Mick Ie

    I’m a wealthy white racist now am I? And here I was thinking I had just simply taken advantage of my educational opportunities and enjoyed reading.

  • Cadae

    There’s good arguments for not being a grammar snob, but there’s equally good arguments for not being a grammar slob.

    • Vlad

      There ARE equally good arguments for not being a grammar slob. :-)

      • TM

        Well spotted.

  • Second time around

    Many of the grammar rules arose not from a true knowledge of the language as it is spoken and written, but as a literally variation of the Freemason’s secret handshake. Language will naturally adapt to what is in use and what is understood, hence the frustration of the Maori Language Commission trying to exclude words of recent English origins from the language. Even people in the club use “improper” English, like “very unique” meaning rare or infrequent rather than one of a kind or sole. Presumably the meaning of the word “unique” is broader than I was taught at school.

    • kereru

      ‘Very unique’ is one which sets my teeth grinding. There are no degrees of ‘unique’. Another is ‘free gift’. Er, if it’s a gift it’s automatically free! But a favourite of mine is the claim on a can of fly spray, ‘Kills flies dead’.

  • XCIA

    I’m not fussed about grammar providing I can understand what the hell someone is trying to say to me. Often, I receive a call where the person on the other end of the line is totally incomprehensible.

    • SlightlyStrange

      I have a regular email correspondent who is nearly impossible to understand unless they are copy-and-pasting from someone elses email.
      Words mis-spelt and mis-used, sentences in the wrong order, random capitalisations and punctuation.
      But, we know they are not well, so we let a chunk of it slide, and debate among ourselves what they mean.

      • kereru

        Mr K has a niece like that. Her entire message is one very long sentence in lower case, without any punctuation whatsoever. But after several attempts we get the message in the end! Her lack of education in no way detracts from her thoughtfulness in taking the trouble to write to us, and we appreciate her for it.

  • Kevin

    God give me strength. The reason why we have rules of grammar is so writers can write clearly without the reader having to spend effort working out what the writer is trying to say.

  • kereru

    What about those of us who love beautifully crafted language? English has a very large vocabulary, most of it hardly used these days – and the richness of the language seems to be decreasing with each decade. I don’t mind having to use a dictionary when I come across words I don’t understand. But that’s quite different when chatting with someone, of course. Clear communication is everything, that’s why we have rules of grammar and spelling.

    • Nige.

      It’s a push towards dumbing down and newspeak.

  • andrewo

    The English lost control of English long ago. Unlike French, there is no equivalent of the ‘academie francaise’ for English. The language has been thoroughly steamrollered by external influences that will undoubtedly determine its future.

  • JEL51

    So with you there Pete.
    I don’t think you would believe me if I described the ‘mix’ of people that have sat around my table over the last 3 weeks. First, family, which one carried with them the misery caused by chicken pox ,followed by some old flat mates & then others that were refugees from the 80’s, that became friends/family.
    If one was to take exception to how ‘language’ was being presented, one would have lost so much more than one gained.
    Then yesterday I had the real joy of taking my ‘new’ friend out to the park where an equestrian event was being held. She, due to a genetical disruption, is unable to speak a word, somehow managed to convey to both riders & horses how much she so enjoyed meeting them.
    I luv to ‘snob’ on occasions but I save that for those who can’t think for themselves.

  • Nige.

    I see good grammar as more of a challenge than a status.

  • sandalwood789

    “Grammar snobs” and “wealthy whites” eh?

    If it wasn’t for “wealthy whites” then there would be no computers or Internet for people like this to push their nonsense. How hypocritical it is for them to use the things that the “nasty horrible wealthy whites” have created.

    If they want to be true to themselves then they should be communicating using smoke signals. *They* weren’t invented by “wealthy whites”. Oh, and they should be wearing grass skirts instead of “wealthy whites” clothes.

    If they don’t do those things, they’re just “talking the talk but not walking the walk”.

    • kereru

      Neither were drum beats. I grew up hearing drum beats at night coming from the direction of the hills quite near our house. I used to wonder what the drummers were saying to each other. A little scary for a small child.

  • kereru

    ‘It appears that if you can’t listen to people without placing strict requirements on how they address you, you are also likely to be less tolerant in a general sense.’

    What?! Who puts ‘strict requirements’ on how anyone speaks or addresses you? Does it mean you make your position clear at the outset – eg. “Before you utter a word, I demand you address me as the Right Honourable Lady Kereru'”? I suppose someone gained a PhD with their thesis that intolerant people who place ‘strict requirements’ on how they’re addressed are also likely to be less tolerant in a general sense.

  • raumatirover

    She finds this offensive. Why am I not surprised?

    • Oh Please

      I find her offensive – but as a white male who cares what I think?

  • SlightlyStrange

    Because other non-English languages don’t have their similar snobbery / strict rules in regards to correct structure and word usage? I mean, I only learnt about things like the Past Imperfect tense by learning another language.

  • GoingRight

    Not sure I know all the grammar rules, but I still find “compared with” and “different from” preferable to “compared to” and “different to”. Does that make me a grammar snob?

  • RightofSingapore

    That silly lady is just trying to show how “progressive” she is. She is also trying to justify her lazy and poor understanding of grammar. No different to a fatty boomsticks campaigning for “fat acceptance” etc.

  • Dog Breath

    Then there is the auto correct function that drives me totally mad especially when using my phone as it tries to learn “my style” as I go and then use this knowledge against me, worse than predictive as the errors are often subtle and are easily overlooked.

  • “She attempts to demonstrate this by pointing out that the words
    “literally” and “figuratively” are becoming interchangeable in common

    Eh? Since when and by whom? If there were two words that were poles apart these are a perfect choice.

    Aside from which my spelling as a rule is average, my diction and punctuation appalling and my command of the verbal English language is often curtailed by the amount of cursing I’m allowed to do in public these days, which apparently is none!

    So given all those that need visual cues as its too PC to give them verbal ones, I’ve mastered the art of going red in the face and looking like I’m two seconds away from an apoplectic fit.

    And when it comes to the university educated, degree holding, dyslexic text generation that cannot even understand a grammatically correct email containing pertinent information about changes to protocol and procedure I’ve given up and send this instead:

    “OI…fings r changn..c me @ my dsk n i splain!”{happy face moronic emoji inserted here}

  • rua kenana

    Grammar is just a way in which people use their language.
    The English language originated in England, and seems to me that anyone complaining about how the English use their language are themselves racist.
    Mona Chalabi is English born with Iraqi parents. If she wants to use the language she should be appreciating it rather than knocking it. However she does write for the Guardian, where any excuse at all, valid or not, to use the word “racist” is welcomed by the editor(s) as a means of hopefully increasing circulation.

  • T Mardell

    Precision in Grammar reflects on the attention the speaker, or writer, has made to clearly deliver their communication. Now we all forgive a non-native speaker, but a native speaker would be expected to have command of their mother tongue.

    But just like an athlete, or a musician, the precision and achievement in the craft of language should be admired and honoured.

    • ex-JAFA

      I detest anyone who makes a statement and concludes it with a question such as, “Do you know what I mean?” or some less articulate version of the same. I always respond, “No”, in hopes that they’ll consider that if they have sufficient doubt as to the clarity of their communication as to necessitate enquiry about the quality of its delivery, they might start to think before speaking, and deliver their message more clearly in future.

  • Andy

    I went to a store the other day. The assistant wanted to help.”No, it’s okay, just looking at prices.” “What?” “I said, I am just looking at prices”. When you have to repeat yourself because people don’t know the language of the country, it gets frustrating.

  • Tiger

    I think this works the other way. The more English is bastardised by the Hoi polloi the more the legal fraternity benefit. After all, who rules the world? Rich white supremacists in the guise of lawyers. The importance of getting your meaning across in lawyerland is paramount and correct , nay perfect grammar is the vehicle. I think Chalabi scored an own goal here but she does not know it.