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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Grammar police: Unproductive, unwarranted, unnecessary.”

    Ignorance of the English language is an epidemic. It’s an embarrassment to our country – and to our fine institution. But the opposite side of the fence is every bit as humiliating and even less productive.

    I’ll freely admit it; I cringe a bit whenever a student writes “”your”” instead of “”you’re”” or can’t remember if I have three “”cats”” or three “”cat’s.”” (I only have one.)

    But there are some who take grammar awareness a step too far. They’re the so-called “”grammar police.”” And in a true show of arrogance, many of them willingly accept the term “”grammar Nazi.”” (Oh, how I long for the old days when “”Nazi”” was considered a nasty word.)

    If you have any doubts, rest assured; you probably know a few of them. A friend who “”helpfully”” asks you if you’re sure you’re doing “”good”” and not “”well.”” An English graduate student who nearly had an aneurysm when you mixed up “”among”” and “”amongst”” in a paper (as one of my friends reported). That guy in your TRAD 101 who lords his syntactic superiority over everyone else.

    If the membership of Facebook groups devoted to “”correct grammar”” or “”English elitism”” is any indicator, most of us at least know a few people who are anal-retentive about English, spoken or otherwise.

    And, really, who can blame them? It’s easy to feel special because you reviewed your high school English rules: You get to feel like you’re a member of an exclusive club with privileged knowledge despite not really doing any work. Hence why there are far fewer members of the “”nonlinear differential equations police”” than their grammatical equivalent.

    In all seriousness: I understand your plight. But it has to stop. Enough is enough.

    Some of you have been feeding us outright misinformation regarding the English language, such as “”never end a sentence with a preposition”” or “”never split an infinitive”” – both of which were concocted by grammarians in the 19th century in a pitiful attempt to Latinize our speech.

    That’s right: neither of these are rules that have ever been followed by any English speaker. Like many arbitrary grammatical rules, they’ve been imposed by a cadre of ivory-tower academicians – and now we get to suffer the consequences.

    Silliness like this is what supposedly prompted Winston Churchill to state, “”That is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.””

    Still, there’s a far more insidious side to this ludicrous reactionism concerning our language. Would-be grammar enforcers often loathe Ebonics and other regional dialects, passing them off as bad English and insisting that everyone ought to learn how to speak “”proper English,”” whatever that means.

    But they won’t miss a beat if a Brit asks about his “”mates”” or notes that something displeasing is “”bloody,”” for example. Is this classism, racism or just a plain double standard? What makes one group’s English legitimate and others’ not?

    There’s something vaguely comforting about knowing that written English will be governed by roughly the same rules a 100 years from now – hopefully, just the legitimate rules, of course.

    Spoken English, on the other hand, is another animal entirely. It can’t be defined by dictionaries or extensive prescriptive grammar rules: these are simply approximations of what truly characterizes any language, which is the manner in which it’s spoken. How counterintuitive!

    The word “”irregardless”” may not make any sense to you – but if I say it aloud, and other people understand what I mean by it, it’s a word. If you’re still seething at that horrible insertion into our lexicon, I have three words for you: It’s all relative.

    I’m sure an olde 15th centurye linguiste would shudder at all the damage we “”proper”” speakers have wrought upon his language. But languages change over time, and this is generally a form of evolution, not devolution. We ought to embrace ever-growing diversity present in our language. It makes English one of the most valuable modes of communication, and as a result, I’m proud to be an English speaker.

    If you still don’t buy that, too bad. I’ll continue to boldly split infinitives like no man has before. And whether you like it or not, prepositions are fun things to end sentences with.

    Taylor Kessinger is a sophomore majoring in physics, math and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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