Blog Post

Grammer Natzee

Dus reeding this maek u kringe?

Well, I certainly did. But then again, I’m a first-language English-speaker and I’ve been studying English and Linguistics for three years – not everyone can say that.

Language use is political and being a ‘grammar nazi’ is like being the person who only drinks bottled water when hiking through a forest surrounded by fresh water streams; it’s kind of ridiculous and elitist.

I feel hypocritical writing this in ‘standard’ South African English (SAfE), especially since I’m about to argue that all of these boundaries of ‘correct spelling’ and ‘grammar’ are constructed, and yes they’ve probably been created by white males. Yet, in the interest of being understood by all English varieties, my blog already conforms to the general understanding of what ‘standard SAfE’ is.

I guess we need could start this as some AA meeting, or GNA Meeting (Grammar Nazis Anonymous) – Hi, my name is Joan, I used to be a Grammar Nazi.

A popular meme used on the internet as a form of grammar policing. (Source)

Okay, there isn’t anything wrong with knowing how to use punctuation correctly and spelling according to normal orthography, but when you’re going to be that person on Facebook who tries to win a comment war by correcting someone’s language use (I was that person), then maybe you should join my GNA club, because this is a problem.

Internet culture has created an elitist demand for correct language use. Memes are even dedicated to disparaging people for not conforming to orthographic standards.

This idea of ‘correct grammar’ is already flawed. If grammar is a set of rules, it might be argued that something that defies our entire understanding of ‘proper’ English, has its own grammar. Perhaps, something like… Doge Speak?

Doge Speak (Generated by Joan Redelinghuys using imgflip)

Author of the blog All Things Linguistic, Gretchen McCulloch, can teach you the intricacies of Doge Speak here. Similarly, Tumblinguistics offers free access to her dissertation on the linguistic rules that Tumblr users follow in text posts. While I conform to standard writing conventions here, please shoot me if I start using capital letters in my short, ‘hurried’ posts on Tumblr – that’s just not how it’s done.

These violations of standard orthography and grammar bring people together; they create sense of community and identity. Also, those making Tumblr posts or doge memes understand and apply this grammar often without realising they’re conforming to specific rules.  While posts online may not always appear grammatically correct according to ‘standard’ English, in that particular domain this may be deliberate.

Tumblr user, schmergoon grammar policing

Suspend your judgement, scepticism, and ‘educate yo’self’ memes for just a moment next time you want to correct someone’s English. Think about who decided these rules. Who learns them and where? Did you understand what the person intended regardless of their error?

And then correct them anyways, heck, why should I tell you what to do?


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