Kim Schulze

Becoming a Grammar Nazi Sympathiser

2013-07-16 10:54
No one likes a Grammar Nazi. Whether you've made an innocent typo or even an error in haste, they'll pick it out and make a noise. As dedicated to their Arial cause as the Nazis were to their Arian.

But as someone who takes a certain level of pride in being able to accurately use the English language, I’ve found the current morphing of language in general to be worrying. The 'LOLs' and 'ROFLs' and 'h8ers' are one thing – I think they annoy me for no other reason than they’re lazy and that I’m simply old and no longer a teen with a, er, super-cool form of character communication.

The problem dawned on me when I was shopping on a rather hip, local, online store. It appeals to the younger group of people who wear leggings as pants. There were approximately ten versions of a shirt, all with the same text on them: "90’s".

"GASP!" you may be thinking, "I used to wear shirts that said '60s'! I’m so old!"

The difference is your '60s shirt was spelt correctly, whereas new-age hippy-hipster child shopping online is walking around with 90’s on her shirt. What’s missing after the 90, do you think? Another two zeroes? Or is she part of a club called 90? All their IQs are 90 and the shirt belongs to the club and is therefore possessively owned by the 90 group? No? They do in fact mean the decade. (Safe to assume as grunge and general '90s style has made a 'mayjah' fashion comeback.)

Kim Schulze screenshot 90s

I suppose you could argue that this is relatively harmless – a case in which a simple apostrophe need be moved – we all still understand what the shirt is saying, right?

But then look at all those funny examples we’re given to "MAKE LEARNING FUN" in school – those ambiguity worksheets with the snort-worthy puns. Fault in that case changed the meaning of whatever was being said.

And then, look at how serious it can be. I was listening to a radio news story, where a translator was giving testimony on behalf of a defendant. The translation barely made sense, and this was because the defendant had so little language at all – not even much in his mother tongue. This is no doubt a result of a failing education system, which I shan’t go into, that left this poor guy practically unable to relay a story. He could have had an entire alibi, a detailed account of what happened, but he can’t voice it. It’s sad, but more infuriatingly, it’s unjust.

This brings me back to the point about basic grammar for the person who does have a language. It need not be English, mind you. If we flippantly disregard the "rules" as they’re set out, and fail to take them seriously, we’re slowly but surely sabotaging our ability to succinctly communicate.

We already alter the meanings of words over a decade or two through our colloquialisation and desire to use new words to describe the same things. That’s how "nice" got bastardised, for example. Progression and evolution is fine. Sliding back into the time of punching, grunting cavemen, however, is not.

So when you ask yourself, "What difference does it make if I know what concord is? What does it matter where my apostrophes go? Whether I spell it 'their', 'they're' or 'there'?" It makes you unintelligible, that’s what. Slowly but surely we’ll be misunderstanding each other more and more, and not just through the lack of tone in a tweet. 

While we need not be relentless and unforgiving when it comes to language correctness, maybe we should consider the long-term consequences of this neglect. Preserve it for the sake of our race and how far we’ve evolved. Grammar, heil!
* You can catch Kim on 5FM every weekday from 12:00-15:00 with more hilarity and quirky content. Candid opinions and the occasional outburst also available on Twitter, @KimSchulze and Facebook publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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