As one who cares about language usage

This was the offending meme, the one that was one-too-many for one of my Facebook friends.

In my early years on Facebook, I not only posted grammar-themed memes, I also crafted occasional comments of my own on the subject. My primary reason was to vent about what I saw not only on Facebook, but just about everywhere, including newspapers. I guess I also held out some hope that somebody or another would be willing to learn — or be reminded. If not, I did know there were some individuals who cared as much as I about correct use of our language. I was confident they would enjoy the posts.

I still see errors that to me are analogous to fingernails on a chalk board. But I stopped commenting some six years ago. That’s when I posted the meme above, which I thought was concise and useful. Someone who was at that time my FB friend somehow took it personally, even though I never, ever aimed any comments at an individual.

The reaction included: “I feel like we are back in HS again and you are the grammar patrol. Bet you are wearing that little belt and have red pencils in your pocket protector just waiting to make a big circle around all mistakes.” Yet I never — ever — corrected anyone on Facebook.

As I explained then, I majored in English, did a lot of writing and editing in my professional career, and have a touch of OCD. Also, I think there are good reasons for us to try to follow rules of grammar and usage. The primary reason is to keep English speakers speaking a common language so that we understand each other.

Most people don’t get angry at people who advocate for proper grammar, but many seem to find us amusing or eccentric. Yet why should trying to speak and write correctly be considered abnormal? Why isn’t it the other way around?

Why ascribe names such as “grammar patrol” or “police” or “nerd” — or worse?
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Another N word

Though World War II ended two years before I was born, people my age grew up in its shadow. “Nazi” was not a word one used flippantly. It was not something you called anyone other than historical figures who were, in fact, Nazis. You certainly didn’t give a friend that tag.

Now some, ignoring or ignorant of history, find it amusing to append it to the word “grammar.”

(On the “Seinfeld” episode about the “Soup Nazi,” the character Kramer never calls him that. A couple of years ago, we took the Real Kramer tour in NYC. The first stop was at The Soup Man — the real shop on which the episode was based — for a cup of the best soup in the world. Kenny Kramer — the real person on whom the character was based — never referred to the business’s founder as a “Nazi.” But I digress.)
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Back to the high school reference, I was not a member of any “grammar patrol.” I hadn’t worn a patrol belt since elementary school and then my duties concerned behavior, not grammar. I had no pocket protector, nor did I carry a red pencil.

I was a student, learning from my mistakes. I appreciate my teachers’ having corrected them.

4 thoughts on “As one who cares about language usage

    1. I once wrote “it’s” when it should’ve been “its” in an assignment for her in 1963-64. She circled it, drew a line to the margin and wrote “Ouch!” I doubt I’ve made the same mistake again. When I see someone mistakenly write “it’s” for the possessive, I feel that same “ouch!” For that and so much more, I finally gave her a long-overdue hug at a class reunion a few years ago.

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