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usage (which is sadly true) and therefore “some Elizabethan definition of correctness” about them is meaningless and outdated.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


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