By Aishwarya Kumar
Do you find yourself being impressed by people with a good command over their language? Does your mind blow a fuse when you see someone using an ‘a’ in place of a ‘the’? Do you find yourself picking people’s grammar now and then, on the Internet or otherwise? Does it seem hard for you to befriend a person who doesn’t have his verbs and pronouns sorted? If the answer to any of the above questions is a reluctant ‘yes’ – well, congratulations! You’re officially what the ‘aam janta’ refers to as a ‘Grammar Nazi’. Yes, I’m congratulating you, because despite everyone’s obvious irritation with the word and the people associated with it, being a Grammar Nazi is not a bad thing at all. You’ll soon know why. The urban dictionary wallahs define a ‘Grammar Nazi’ as “Someone who believes it’s their duty to attempt to correct any grammar and/or spelling mistakes they observe.” The ‘Internet janta’ – people on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have made no efforts to conceal their dislike towards these grammar conscious people. Tweets after tweets are written in honor of these people with rather colorful language used. There are even long blog posts written about these species, which are sometimes informative – like, ‘who is a grammar Nazi?’; sometimes imposing – like, ‘7 signs that show you are a grammar Nazi’’; and sometimes plain ridiculous – like, ‘Grammar Nazis can never be your friends: A look at the serious flaws in their framework.’ (Go refer to Google chacha if you like. I’m not making them up!) Me, being a self confessed Grammar Nazi myself find it hard to understand the exact cause of this worldwide hatred we are subjected to. This article is made in favor of us Grammar Nazis, the perpetually misunderstood species and a little defense offered as to why we are no ‘uptight assholes who need to get a life (sic)’.
Quoting what a person had written on a micro-blogging site – “They correct people as if they are the ‘spelling police’, whom no one appointed.” Okay I wouldn’t lie, Grammar Nazis wouldn’t mind being a ‘spelling police’ if there indeed existed a cool profession like that. But, seriously – Call it our respect for the ‘language gods’ or a silent promise to William Shakespeare we might have made ages ago – we assume it is our duty to correct people about their little grammatical errors for their good, for the ‘greater good’…no matter how far-fetched and ridiculous this may sound. We point out simple flaws that often show a lack of intelligence on the part of the person being criticized, so that he/she is saved from becoming the laughing stock of people he/she converses with on a day-to-day basis. Another one writes, “They deliberately look for grammatical faults and go on mocking people.” Hmm. Picture this: You wake up in the morning and find your eye itching. You go to the mirror to see the cause for the irritation and spot the little culprit – a tiny dust particle. You try to remove it immediately, rubbing and squeezing your eye in the process. Yet, it refuses to come off. You find it difficult to concentrate on anything around you because of the particle irritating your eye. Finally, after vigorously rubbing your eyes, it falls off. Only then, you heave a sigh of relief and carry on. This is how a Grammar Nazi works – A grammatical error is like a dust particle in their eye – irritating and itchy. Like you cannot concentrate without removing the particle off your eye even if it harms the eye in the process, they cannot function without correcting a grammatical error – even if it hurts the person committing it in the process.
Yes, the action of correcting someone is absolutely intentional. But, if you ask us if we deliberately look for faults and errors in people’s sentences, the answer is a confident NO. Consider it like a ‘takneeki kharaabi’ or a ‘technical fault’ in us because of which the first thing we notice about a person is their grammar. It is totally impulsive, and not a result of some weird careful planning to point out someone’s weaknesses. In there opinion, wrong grammar sticks out like a sore thumb they cannot help but take note of. For example, I made a grammatical error in the above line. I wrote ‘their’ as ‘there’. And if you noticed it, you are a Grammar Nazi and you’ll see what I mean. Recently, there was a comment on my blog from someone named ‘ILoveEnglish’. Well, this comment’s going to be interesting, I thought since the username itself was so flashy. I began reading the comment and oh my eyes! They still hurt with the torture they were put through. Yes, you guessed it. Irony slapped me on the face, jumped from the terrace and committed suicide when this person who supposedly ‘loved’ English massacred it brutally with his blasphemous spellings and incorrigible grammar. I think I must have lost a 1000 grey cells, while I hopelessly tried to decipher what this dude had actually wanted to convey. Now, you tell me. How am I supposed to form a coherent reply to his comment? A part of me wanted to form a reply only highlighting his grammatical errors, but well stopped myself.
I agree, Grammar Nazis can sometimes be Internet killjoys – considering the new SMS language is so hugely popular, and even poor-little-three letter words like ‘why?’ and ‘you’ are happily reduced to ‘y’ and ‘u’. I understand that being corrected every time for small little faults can get on your nerves. I believe perspective is king. What are ‘inconsequential faults’ for you, can be sacrilege in the eyes of a Grammar Nazi. And anyway, such hardcore Grammar enforcers are few and far in between. Most Grammar Nazis you see on the Internet are not very stingy, and impossible as it may sound, they too enjoy a laugh now and then. Contrary to popular belief, we Grammar Nazis don’t carry ‘Wren and Martin’ copies in our bags everywhere we go, or spend our free time reading blogs over the internet written by amateur teenagers and go on posting comments that are a compiled list of their grammatical errors. Nor is English Grammar our favorite subject. Look at it like this: If a normal person’s life is 50% play and 50% work, a grammar Nazi’s life is 50% play, 25% work and 25% use of fine, flawless language. As simple as that. “I’m Shakespeare & Austen’s child, who was born out of wedlock… I correct you to make you learn and smile, not to offend or mock!” And that was my very lame attempt at poetry. But, I guess you understood my point. Repeat these lines in your head whenever you happen to encounter a Grammar Nazi. We correct you – but we do it impulsively, unintentionally and we mean well.
We don’t bite and there is no ulterior motive involved – sachmuch.