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Ach Bin Ein Grammarian!
7.21.2003 by Dan, every Monday.


I have been called many things over the course of my life. Things such as “Geek,” “Nerd,” “Too-Tall,” “Red Power Ranger,” “Geek” again, “Potted Fern,” and ”1982 Chrysler Cordoba.” And that's just what one of my psychiatrists calls me. To my face. But lately, and perhaps most disturbingly, I have been called a ”Grammar Nazi.”

For those of you not in the know, a ”Grammar Nazi” is someone who is a stickler for the finer points of grammar, such as ”subject-verb agreement,” ”dangling participles,” “spelling” and “punctuation.” By showing a reaction to the poor writing abilities of others, be it anything from minor irritation to chasing them around a parking lot while trying to hit them with a folding chair, one brands one's self a “Grammar Nazi.”

So, essentially, “Grammar Nazis” are people who prefer to follow the rules of grammar. Oddly, this title doesn't surface in other academic disciplines:

Board Member 1: So as you can see from these figures, we stand to save nearly fourteen quintillion dollars by eliminating employee bereavement leave.

Board Member 2: Um, I'm pretty sure that four plus four doesn't equal seven.

Board Member 1: (rolling eyes) What a Math Nazi!”

(all board members point at Member 2 and laugh, then vote themselves a pay raise.)


I freely admit that I know the rules of grammar. I'm proud of my literacy. I also freely admit that I'll get irritated when some sub-literate whackbag tries to pass this off as writing:

today i walked my dog . . . it was cloudy . . . sometimes i wonder why no one replies to the e-mails i write them . . . maybe it has something to do with my phobia of punctuation . . . and capitalization . . . blah blah blah blah . . . babble . . .

That is not writing. That is barely communicating. That, dear readers, is blithering in type. And if you think that wanting to slap these people around, then tie them to chairs and force them to read “Ethan Frome” until either they can either end a sentence with a single act of punctuation or their brains ooze from their ears in sheer ennui is wrong, then you'll probably be sending me e-mails with words as short as three letters misspelled.

And we can blame books such as “Ethan Frome” for this. I'm sure we all remember our high school English classes, where Mrs. Miller would make us read these mind-numbingly boring tragic books, such as “Ethan Frome.” “Ethan Frome” is this novel by Edith Wharton about how much Ethan's life sucks. And it takes her pages to get across the simple message that women are bitches that ruin your life. Or maybe it's that Ethan's a wuss. Anyway, reading this short novel in class was prolonged into a six-week ordeal of reading something like three pages a week so that both the hypothetical “slow kids” could keep up, and so that Mrs. Miller didn't have to do more than one lesson plan every six weeks. So it's no wonder that so many of us lost the accompanying grammar lessons in the resulting traumatic memory suppression.

And of course, suppressed traumatic memories have a way of resurfacing years later. Some guy, we'll call him “Buford” because it's a funny name, is sitting in his office reviewing insurance claims, when his boss walks in. “Dammit Buford,” he'll say. “How many times have I told you that we don't review insurance claims here! This is a used car dealership!” And Buford will look sheepish, because he was distracted by his subconscious mind wondering why Hester didn't accuse Reverend Wilson of being Pearl's father just to shut him up. And I'm sure we all can remember countless times where we'll be walking down a hill on a snowy day, when suddenly some guy will blow past us in a station wagon shrieking (the man is shrieking, that is) “Damn you, Zeena!” before steering into a tree and exploding? (the car explodes, I mean)(well, I suppose the guy does too, really)

My solution to the problem is simple. First replace all these bummer crap novels written in archaic, stilted language with literature that high-schoolers will actually read, such as “Tiger Beat,” “TV Guide,” and those historical romance novels like “Swooning In The Dashing Pirate's Lumpy Arms.” And so our classic novels are not neglected, we'll make them required reading in college, where the students will have access to a wide variety of recreational substances to blot out the pain and not have to resort to suppressing grammar lessons.

Once again, my brilliant- wait, Don't jump in the pool Gatsby!! The ditzy broad isn't worth it!! NOOOOOOOO *gurgle*




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