Archive for the ‘Goddamned Prescriptivists!’ Category

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Actually, shouldn’t it be called being a Grammar Fascist anyway?

February 3, 2009

So courtesy of Fark, I was pointed to this MSNBC article: Is stress pushing spelling snobs over edge?

(I just noticed as I was typing the title that the headline of the article seems to be missing a ‘the’.)

The article starts off with

Some people avoid Krispy Kreme because of the calories. Angela Nickerson won’t go there because of the Ks.


When you deprive yourself of the tastiest donuts on the planet because you don’t like how they had to spell a trademark qualifying name, you need to start reevaluating how far your Grammar Naziism has gone. It’s much harder to keep a unique trademark when you use words exactly as they appear in the dictionary, which is why there are other Junk Food offenders (Tastykake comes to mind as a Philadelphia resident) and failing to realize that just makes you look beyond pedantic.

The article goes on to suggest that being in these high stress times triggers this kind of fastidious grammar correction. Why not then also write an article about how stressful economic times increases OCD triggered house cleaning? Obsessive behavior is obsessive behavior, but if you have OCD, you’re sick whereas if you’re a Grammar Nazi, you’re just a bitch and therefore less guilt-inducing to write about.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind some people mentioned in the article. For instance, I also have an issue with the inappropriate use of quotation marks to indicate emphasis. Mostly it’s because I find it hilarious. I’ve been in stores claiming Our Bathrooms Are “Clean”, or asking me to Try Our “Fresh” Sandwiches. I don’t think this is so much an issue with grammatical rules as it is a failure to understand what quotations indicate when you’re not directly quoting someone. I find it particularly silly when the signs are typed, as it is not hard to turn words into italics, but for the handwritten ones – is it that hard to underline the word? Or in internet chat rooms, to use all caps for the emphatic words or to bracket them with something like asterisks?

If someone is just concerned about the state of grammar education in these modern times, then they pick their battles based on the idea that we must make sure people know how to communicate directly. To constantly berate and belittle based on grammatical ideals created based on the idea that English should be like Latin only makes it that much harder for the truly necessary corrections to be embraced.

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Ahh, Conflict

June 22, 2005

I forget which of my many linguistic LJ communities posted this, but on the BBC Website there is an article about Kate Burridge’s statement against the possessive apostrophe.

I’m really torn about this. One one hand, I do firmly believe in a descriptive grammar that fluctuates with usage over time. On the other, I recognize that some prescriptivism is necessary to keep a language from changing TOO fast.

Also a lot of this breaks down into a difference between spoken and written languages. Allowing massive changes to the graphalect based on people taking shortcuts, leaves us with illegibility. Anyone who’s ever hung out in an AOL chatroom or attempted to read a text message full of gibberish knows this.

I think the major problem I have (and this may just be my interpretation) is that she didn’t just observe that it’s dropping from the informal language. She formally stated it should be dropped altogether.

No, bad linguist. You lose your descriptivist license. You broke the holy rule: we do not state how language SHOULD function, we state how it DOES.

However, I should state that I sort of agree with her on the hyphen. No one really knows how it’s supposed to be used. Hell, I don’t really, I just muddle by as best I can. But we can’t fully get rid of it; I’d have trouble writing my last name.

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Goddamned Prescriptivists

April 17, 2005

I watched Do You Speak American? today on TV. It seemed less a follow up to History of the English Language or a documentary on American dialect as much as it was a discussion of the schism between Prescriptivism and Descriptivism.

It may have helped some if the Prescriptivists they had on weren’t complete elitist assholes. Something about allowing the uneducated to dictate to academia. This is about when the Mysterious Masked Linguist shouted some very foul “un-standard” language at the television. Chemists do not dictate how elements interact, they study how THEY ALREADY DO! Get your head out of your ass! Prescriptivism has its place (Some aspect of the English Graphalect for example), but you’re not going about it the right way. Also the guy in favor of English as the National Language and his massive straw-man arguments was pretty funny/annoying.

Thankfully Robert MacNeill, the host of the mini-miniseries, showed to be his normal open minded self… and showed tendencies towards descriptivism on his own. Good for him.

Also, *points at icon* I have an avatar now, courtesy of City of Heroes screenshots.