Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Dying Breed

     The world is a dark and sinister place, my friends. Grammar geeks are a dying breed. With each passing day, the English language grows feebler and feebler, and there are alarming predictions about its complete demise looming just on the horizon. Misplaced apostrophes abound, and the occurrence of splice commas increases with alarming rapidity. We few sensitive grammar geeks (who are occasionally known, more offensively, as the Punctuation Gestapo) grow increasingly depressed at the futility of it all and become tempted to lock ourselves in dark closets for the rest of our lives. We are alone in a savage and frightening world of linguistic ignorance. Nobody loves us. We don’t even love each other.

     That’s probably why our movement doesn’t ever grow and instead seems to get progressively smaller with each passing decade. The thing about grammar nerds is that we don’t really have a common cause to unite us. Sure, we all profess the desire to see the English language back on its feet and once again hale and hearty, but in a saddening twist of fate there are not two of us who agree on what exactly that is supposed to look like. Not only that, but we are not a group that tolerates opposing viewpoints very well.

     See, when two Republicans are talking politics, the discussion is likely to be fairly amiable. Certainly, they may disagree on one or two minor points, but they will not discharge heavy weaponry at each other. They will probably part as friends. Whereas if you get two grammar geeks in a room together, it is an entirely different case altogether. They will start out the best of friends but because of an unfortunately timed comment about Oxford commas will part the bitterest of enemies. It is probable that the smaller of the two will be sporting a black eye or some similar disfigurement. The only difference between grammar nerds who disagree and rival gangs is that grammar nerds rarely possess large machine guns.

     It is unfortunate, to be sure. It breaks my heart. How are we supposed to convince the rest of the world that grammatical zeal is a good thing if we can’t stop arguing for three minutes at a time? Nobody wants to be part of a group in which you are likely to be slain by fellow members. For myself, I am of the frowned-upon crowd who values style above perfectly strict grammatical correctness. If the rules call for a comma but it is unsightly, out it goes. I expunge it ruthlessly and brace myself for the consequences. I use sentence fragments with reckless abandon, for I like the tense drama they add. And you may have noticed that I start some sentences with conjunctions: a crime which, I have heard, is legal grounds for hanging in certain countries. These things do not tend to make one popular. The other grammar fanatics raise their eyebrows. They look askance. “What,” they say to themselves, “do we have here?”

     The thing about this is that they are partially correct. The rules of grammar were made for a reason, and in most situations they work very nicely. If one disregards punctuation completely and sprinkles commas and semicolons all over one's writing purely on whim, then where will we be? Anarchy, that’s where. But that’s no reason to go all apoplectic just because I started this sentence with a conjunction. We need balance. Nobody gets anywhere without balance. We need to embrace all the other grammar nerds with a warm, unconditional love. We need tolerance; yes, even of those few maniacs who are all obsessed with the Oxford comma. We must retain our personal values and be at peace with our fellow fanatics.

     I have a dream. And it is that all grammar geeks will live together in peace, with tolerance and love for each other. I dream that we will no longer rip one another to shreds over phrasing disputes. I dream that we will never again come to knifing each other over disagreements about colons. And maybe even someday… someday we could include the entire English-speaking world in our passionate love for the language!

      Of course, tolerance only goes so far. We must draw the line somewhere, else we risk being pansies who won’t fight for any cause at all, no matter how worthy. Well now, take those fiendish and perfidious knaves who use splice commas….

1 comment:

  1. I seriously ::cannot wait:: to read the book you write, someday.


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