Monday, July 13, 2009

"Grammar police": law and peevology update

By this point, people regularly pass along their favorite or least favorite examples of peevology. The latest, which has been sitting untouched around the house for a week, is the University of Alabama's Law School publication, Capstone Lawyer 2009 edition. It includes some pretty interesting and very positive stuff, like Bama's programs in Ethiopia. But it also has this:
Meet the Grammar Police
It's your standard peevologist thing, about law student Sharon Eliza Nichols (I use no first name, and she needs two?) ranting about not grammar but spelling errors — misuse of apostrophes and youryou're are the only two examples given. If you're bitching about grammar, you should be able to distinguish it from spelling. This problem has been endlessly pointed out here and on the Log, and elsewhere, of course ... the memo isn't getting around to some folks, I guess.

The piece points out that Nichols founded an fb group called "I judge you when you use poor grammar", which "boasts more than 350,000 members and 7,000 signs". If you search that string on Facebook, you don't get anything nearly that big (maybe my patience wore thin too fast?) but there are lots of groups with that and similar names. She is in fact listed as admin on one such group, with a mere 1,672 members and 1,226 pictures when I checked it. Here's the shpiel:
If we are going to win the War on Poor Grammar, we have to seek out the infidels (grammar offenders) and hold them accountable. Under our watch, justice will indeed prevail.

Your assignment is to seek out the infidels and document their acts of terror. Take pictures and post them in this group to serve as examples to all. Our condescension and their humiliation will eventually cause them to change their wicked ways.

Good luck, and God bless you all.
Seems a little over the top to me, with the whole jihad thing. In fact, especially since the image top left above is on the site, I would think it was ironic if I hadn't read the article and some of the surrounding stuff.

More interesting is the proliferation of groups like these:
  • I judge you when you judge me for using poor grammar.
  • I will NOT judge you when you use poor grammar
  • Yes! Role Tied!

    Update, 11 am: As was quipped this morning on this topic: This is the kind of stuff that would give grammar a bad name if it had anything to do with grammar.

    Image from here.


    Betsy said...

    Thanks for these links. As a copy editor, it's my job to hunt down and destroy poor grammar and spelling, but as an ESL teacher, I feel that it is also my job to be tolerant and to appreciate meaning before form. Surely we don't need to judge people based on form of the language they write!
    By the way, I joined "I will NOT judge you when you use poor grammar."

    Mr. Verb said...

    Thank you. Of course, like I think all linguists, I appreciate the work of copy editors. Our contributors include people with considerable editing experience, and I think they'll all say that it's not only appreciated but extremely difficult work.

    It's interesting that you wear those two hats -- a very nice practical range of perspectives on language!

    Aaron said...

    A couple more Facebook groups of interest on this topic:
    People against prescriptive grammar. In favor of language change.
    To me, being in favor of language change sounds kind of like being in favor of plate tectonics, but the rest of U.S. culture doesn't see it that way yet.
    This is total self-shillage, but there is also this Facebook group End Uninformed Discussion about Correct Grammar In setting up this group, I tried to follow the Libermanite line, which I later found out, is actually a little more prescriptivist than most linguists like these days.

    Mr. Verb said...

    Wow, self-shillage or not, this is good. Thanks!

    Anonymous said...

    Took me a minute to get the 'roll Tide' thing.

    The Ridger, FCD said...

    The funniest thing is, they can't tell anything when they hear people who use its and you're for it's and your... How do they deal with not being able to judge properly?

    Mr. Verb said...

    That's easy: Only written language counts!!!!

    Anonymous said...

    is correct use of apostrophes really considered spelling rather than grammar? why is that?