Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why I'm Not A Nazi

    The short answer for the title of this post is that the National Socialist Party was declared to be illegal following World War II and, therefore, by definition, no one these days can properly call themselves a Nazi, although there are still some today who follow its misguided precepts. 
     On the Internet, though, people are called Nazis all the time, especially those individuals who believe that proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and pronunciation are important. I am one of those individuals, called by the ignorant and uneducated a grammar Nazi. But, like some of my friends in the online world, I am now declaring myself to be a grammar Jedi.
     The Jedi, as you may recall, are people who use their knowledge and wisdom (and skills with a lightsaber) to combat the dangers of the dark side of the Force. I would suggest that the folks who don't care whether their speaking and writing ability accurately reflects the norms of the English language have fallen victim to the dark side.
     These semi-literate rubes become defensive whenever their ill-used grammar is pointed out to them, so they fight back with name-calling.
     "I may have said that wrong," they proclaim, "but you are a grammar Nazi."
    The connotation here is that nobody really cares about good grammar, and if you do, you should be associated with a political movement that believed in the superiority of certain races and the annihilation of others. In debate, that's known as an ad hominem attack. If you cannot refute the message, attack the messenger.
     Defenders of proper English usage have been subjected to such attacks for many years. To be fair, some of them deserved a bit of recrimination because they were so insufferably arrogant in correcting others. I'm reminded of the apocryphal story of Winston Churchill replying to  a memo from someone who had told him he shouldn't end a clause with a preposition. 
     He reportedly said, "This is the kind of tedious nonsense, up with which I will not put."
     Because English, unlike French, has no definitive set of usage rules, we Jedi must be careful about who and how we choose to correct. Common usage sometimes trumps the so-called rules of the language. As you can see from the sentence above, I, for one, think it's time to default to using the word "who" and let "whom" go the way of "thee" and "thou."
    That being said, I believe we Jedi masters must still wage some battles when the forces of the dark side began to invade our speech. I do so with my children in a gentle, but firm manner whenever they utter words like "brung." The other day, I explained to my daughter that misused and mispronounced words are a pet peeve of mine. I then had to explain to her what pet peeve meant.
    Herewith, a brief synopsis of those grammatical pet peeves:

Saying "I seen it," instead of "I saw it."
Pronouncing the word wash as if it rhymed with horse.
Being unable to put the three syllables NEW, KLEE, and ER in the word nuclear.
Adding an unnecessary plural to a business that doesn't need it, as in "I'm going to Walmarts."

    Each of these utterances have come from close friends and family, so I hesitate to correct them overtly. But, as a Jedi, my mission is clear. May the Force be with us.