What to Do About ‘Grammar Snobs’?

by on December 16, 2021 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Edwin Decker

Dear Ed, I have 3 or 4 friends that are Grammar Nazis. If I dare spell, “there” as “their,” they’re there to call you a dumb ass. Obviously, I know the difference. I’m just texting or emailing quickly and not thinking. And half of these people end up having terrible grammar themselves. Ok, maybe they have good spelling, but they’ll write, “How are you!!!!” which makes me want to respond, “You should end that sentence in a question mark, not an exclamation point. And why multiple exclamation points? Is a piano falling on your head?” So my question is, Do any spelling and/or punctuation things get to you?

Josh Board
Movie Reviewer

Dear Josh, I’m with you on this. Especially about the Grammar Fascists who razz people about texting mistakes. To me, the point of SMS is expedience. If I spend too much time editing my messages, how will I have enough time left to invent the hoverboard? That said, I want to make sure the message is understandable.

For instance, if I text, “I’m going to buy Lonny down pillows for Christmas,” and my Speech-to-Text doohickey changes it to, “I am going to lie down with your mommy for some Sexy Ass,” I’ll probably correct that.

But no, I do not appreciate the condescending attitude of Grammar Snobs. And I strive not to belittle or demean others for their various grammatical errors, no matter how egregious.

The two main reasons I try not to judge are, firstly, because I make spelling, punctuation, syntax, redundancy and definitional errors all the time. I have no doubt that I have made at least one in this very dokument. Secondly, and more importantly, I believe that grammar, like everything else, is a skill. And it’s a bit arrogant to assume that anyone who doesn’t possess the same skills as I (or is it “as me”?) makes them dense.

My mother and I have been debating this for years. She’s a former English teacher and a bit of a Grammar Asshole but I always tell her, “You may be a great editor, Mom, but can you repair a leaky faucet? Can you swap out a computer’s motherboard? If you can’t change a carburetor, are you deserving of a mechanic’s condescension because he can do that with his eyes closed? If anything, I would argue that an illiterate mechanic is smarter because his skills are more useful than knowing the difference between “who” and “whom.”

That said, there is no shortage of grammar infractions to offend my sensibilities. Again, not judging, but I do cringe at the over-exclamization of sentence endings. I do wince at excessive question-marking. And I shudder at the incorrect interchanging of the “there” homophones – especially when I do it. But mostly, it is redundancies on which I focus.

For instance, it makes me want to stick my face in a murder hornet’s nest when someone says, “I fell asleep at 3 a.m. in the morning.” Other pet peeves in the redundancy department are, “face mask” (as opposed to a dick mask?), “cease and desist” (should I also stop and quit? Or maybe refrain and abstain?) and the phrase, “maybe, maybe not” (which is like saying, “possibly or perhaps”). There’s also “bouquet of flowers”, “closed fist” and “final destination.”

Indeed, “final destination” has been a subject of great debate with some of my friends. I even argued the point with the hosts of A Way with Words, Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett. It was during a live show, at the end of which was a question-and-answer period. I raised my hand and asked if they thought it was redundant. They both said no. Grant argued that the layovers of a flight are destinations, just not the final one. I argued that the layovers are not the destination – the destination is the destination. They disagreed but screw those guys! What do they know about language?

Another literary botch-job that makes me want to cut off my toes and feed them to ravens is when new couples say, “It’s our three-month [or six-month, or whatever-month] anniversary.” So whaddya want, a gummy? Not only does celebrating a relationship in monthly increments not bode well for it lasting more than a year, it’s also a grammatical mess. The root word of “anniversary” is “anni” which is Latin for “annual.” It is literally impossible to have a 3-month, yearly recurrence.

Speaking of “literally,” it is the desecration of that word that makes me want to drink a petri dish of Coronaviruses and chase it with plague. Once again, I swear, I’m not being judgmental of the offender, but “literally” was intended to be used as a way for the speaker/writer to distinguish between hyperbole and genuineness. For instance, when I write, “The misuse of ‘literally’ figuratively drives me insane,” the reader knows that I have not actually gone bonkers.

These days the word is commonly used as an intensifier, like the time your valley girl daughter said, “When Jimmy showed up with his new girlfriend, I literally died!” Or when her brother responded, “I literally told you a million times not to exaggerate!”

I truly believe, based solely on my experience, that the word is used incorrectly more than it is correctly. So much so that freaking Webster’s Dictionary changed the meaning to include the incorrect, intensifying usage. Well fuck me! What’s the point of having the word at all then? If we don’t know whether it’s intended as a qualifier or an intensifier, it becomes obsolete. I mean, what if you saw a customer at a restaurant stick his face into his fettucine Alfredo and slop it up while oinking between gulps? Well now, thanks to Webster, when you tell your friends, “Dude was literally eating like a pig,” they won’t know that he was actually, truly, LITERALLY dining like a hog.

Anyway, Josh, those are some of my peeves. But I will continue trying not to demean those who use them. I can barely change a tire so who am I to judge?

Edwin Decker (of Ocean Beach) is not a licensed therapist or psychologist. In fact, his only qualification is the 25-plus years as a bartender listening to the liver-aching of desperados and dipsomaniacs. Heed his advice at your peril.

Send questions to ed@edwindecker.com

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page December 16, 2021 at 1:18 pm

I’m sending this to my daughter, who will be. literally, annoyed.


Grant Barrett December 16, 2021 at 5:19 pm

There once a man named Decker
Who had a mask for his pecker
Made out of felt
It looked like his pelt
And raised rumors he was a three-legger.


edwin decker December 16, 2021 at 9:36 pm

There once was a fellow named Grant
Whose phallus could not fit into his pants
Big as it was,
When push came to shove
It put all of the ladies in trance.

Hell yeah Grant! By any chance do you remember that discussion we had? I enjoyed it immensely. Much props, big fan.


Grant Barrett December 17, 2021 at 7:43 am

Sure, I remember! I remember you could not be persuaded, too.


edwin decker December 17, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Yah, it was fun debating that with you guys. Fun show too! Any more coming up?

So, do you still stand by your position? Or has my amazing ability to convince finally worn you down?


Sorry not Sorry December 17, 2021 at 8:51 am

Gr8 article Ed.


edwin decker December 17, 2021 at 6:15 pm

Thanks SNS!


Grant Barrett December 17, 2021 at 3:22 pm

No live events until the pandemic has really lifted but we have been doing video events.

My position is still the same.


edwin decker December 17, 2021 at 6:16 pm

Cool, I’ll keep an eye out. Keep up the great work.


Jimmy Jimmerino December 24, 2021 at 6:30 pm

How can you write something like this without even mentioning the interrobang‽


edwin decker December 26, 2021 at 7:50 am

Oh crap! I forgot all about it!


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