Dear Grammar Nazis,
To begin: I write to you as a fifth columnist — a turncoat, a renegade; some sort of bespectacled John Rambo of linguistic justice. As this of course indicates, I was once one of you. I understand your case, I promise I do. I know the shooting pain that comes with reading a misplaced “your” when there OBVIOUSLY should be a “you’re” in its place. I too have indulged in that, the most sweet release of ranting for hours about proper punctuation, the difference between possessives and contractions, or the degenerative nature of textspeak (or, God forbid, the sheer debauchery of unfiltered, extremist leetspeak) even going so far as to bring up all three, or more!, together in one euphoric cacophony of unadulterated irascibility.
Hell, there was even a time in my life when I deemed it reasonable, my civic duty even, to stop blissfully innocent children in their tracks as they played with their friends, so to chide them on their use of funner — a superlative pariah that first spurred my quest for descriptivist enlightenment.
All of this goes to say that I appreciate your mindset. Well, at least I used to. Today I rebel against instinct. I fight back because I have braved the untamed wilderness of descriptivism; I have entered the ramshackle huts of colloquialism and broken bread and argot with their natives, as you sit high above in your cant towers. Now, I wear the bloody ink of your beloved red, revisionary pens like warpaint across my cheeks. I have seen the plight of popular parlance and I have been transformed.
Before you stands, reincarnated, Lieutenant John Dunbar. Captain Nathan Algren. Jake Sully. Pick your poison, no matter what, that makes you the sleazy, evil white guys of this metaphor. No one wants to be the white guys! Especially in this circumstance.
And look, I know you didn’t pick the name “Grammar Nazis” — reappropriation is chicer than ever these days — but I really don’t think you’re doing yourselves any favors there. The whole Aryan connotation there doesn’t really discredit my whole “white guys” comment…
Let’s be candid here, look at yourselves — You are white! Really white! Wealthy, educated, and whiter than a pack of polo players riding polar bears playing atop particularly snowy Polish peaks. There’s nothing wrong with that, in theory, but time has shown that this does tend to affect your passionate prescriptivism. Often your opponents are the impoverished, underprivileged, and the institutionally repressed.
Honestly, think about it. The chagrin you might feel at hearing “y’all,” a technically imaginary tense that bridges race-related linguistic divides throughout the United States, would never incite as much of an uproar as is met by the metathesized consonants [aksed], negative concord [ain’t no], or additional past and present tenses [I done been taught well/ I’m a-gonna teach you/ etc.] presented by African American Vernacular English (or Ebonics). To argue one has more merit than the other is absolutely anti-egalitarian. Truthfully, it’s downright fascist.
And you are not fascist, not deep down. Sure, you’re pretentious — bordering on holier-than-thou (and if you can’t admit even that, you are a lost cause my friend) — you enjoy a good argument, and you have facetiously surrendered to a rather dour epithet; but this doesn’t mean you are intolerant supremacists. No! You are our inkhorn protectors! You are the preservers of the English language, and your only goal is to unite the English-speakers of the world under a common comprehension of meaning and mechanism. You correct because you care.
I only ask that you remember this for me, confess the humanity that I know lies within you. Do not follow that red flag too blindly. Your foe, no matter how sophomoric his syntax or tortuous his tenses, is still human. The nationalism you feel for the great Grammarian’s Reich, it stems from a basal love of conveying ideas; and if you let rules obscure ideas, the whole point of language is lost: you have failed.
Here’s to a new brand of siege heil,