Sunday, October 27, 2013

Confessions of an Undercover Grammar Nazi

I used to consider myself a Grammar Nazi.

But then, my sister became one. And I realized what it was like to be on the receiving end of the Nazism.
It makes you feel like the person isn't listening to you, but to your grammar. (Thankfully, I do have pretty decent grammar abilities, so most of the time, my sister doesn't get flustered by my incorrect speech and actually listens to me. Actually, who am I kidding*. The fact that she actually listens is within some contention.)
Living with an Outspoken Grammar Nazi has made me reconsider my own Nazism. Now, I can't completely give it up. But at least I keep it undercover. Partially for the reason that I don't want others to suffer what I suffer under my sister. (That's a joke, by the way. I love my sister.) But also for the reason that I don't want to be yelled at. Once a fellow cussed at my sister after she corrected his "me/I" usage. Yeah.

I am an Undercover Grammar Nazi.

I'm sure there are many like me. People who silently cringe at bad grammar but don't want to look like inconsiderate snobs, so they keep it to themselves. Because, seriously, nobody's perfect, including Grammar Nazis. We make grammar mistakes too! How hypocritical.

But, because of my inner Grammar Nazi, I feel like I now need to share with you my one biggest pet peeve. This doesn't mean I condemn it, and I won't call you out on it if you make this mistake, but inwardly it makes my writer's ear cringe.

It's who vs. whom. Use who where it's replaceable with he, and use whom where it's replaceable with him. Super simple. "Who wants some cake?" "He wants some cake." "Whom do you like?" "I like him." 

I know the English language is a fluid thing, and changes through usage. There's no committee who determines what's right and what's wrong, like there is in French. So technically you could say that anything goes. But it still needs to be readable and understandable, so there have to be some rules, I guess. But certain things phase out - thou used to be common usage (it's actually the English version of the informal you, Usted, in Spanish, Vous, in French, Ви (or Vy), in Ukrainian... etc.), but they ended up just merging with the more formal you. So I have a feeling that whom will get phased out. It's being used less and less:

I actually sort of like whom (maybe just because I'm proud of knowing it's proper usage), and would be sad to see it go.

Now that I have it out of my system, you won't get any more Grammar Nazi snobbishness out of me, if I can help it!

Thanks for listening. :-)


Are you an Undercover Grammar Nazi? (Or possibly an Outspoken one?) 

Update: So shortly after I posted this, I was browsing around my favorite sites and happened to stop by the Write at Home Blog. Whaddaya know, there was a post on Grammar snobbishness (or "grammarrogance"). Spooky coincidence... 
It's also made me feel bad about my who/whom pet peeve. I try to be humble about it...

*Update (2/10/14): Just noticed my own error - it should be "whom am I kidding." Oh, the irony. See, it happens to the best of us. Down with the snobbery!

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