Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

It's "great" !
May 22, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Anyone want to start a grammar nazi site?

I see writing all the time, not only on Metafilter but everywhere, that is mangled and misspelled. Since I'm an active member of MeFi, it breaks my heart to see these things. I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.

I suspect others feel the same way. I propose we start a website of like-minded people to, unapologetically, promote our agenda.

Anyone with me?
posted by Turtles all the way down to MetaFilter-Related at 10:50 AM (130 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Isn't there a Firefox plug-in for this somewhere?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.

Thank you for showing restraint. Really. Especially in askme. It's pretty rare that just point out some flub of grammar or spelling or whatever actually meaningfully improves the conversation, setting aside the questions of (a) whether the person who committed the sin noticed it or not, given that users can't edit their own comments, (b) whether the error is in any way itself disrupting the conversation, and (c) whether the person playing pedant is even making a correct or defensible statement.

Speaking as a long-time pedant.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:56 AM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hey, in this case, "GYOB" is useful advice, not just angry snarking!
posted by Plutor at 10:58 AM on May 22, 2008


but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome

Correct you are, with that thought.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on May 22, 2008


Maybe you could hook up with these guys.
posted by anifinder at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2008


I am all for some orthographical and grammatical help around here. something akin to the grammar girl podcasts for metafilter might be helpful for non-native speakers like myself from time to time.

then again... a simple edit option would improve a lot of posts. I tend to spot errors in my posts all the time after having sent them off...
posted by krautland at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2008


Its really not a good idea, whose going to listen?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:01 AM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


grammarnazis.net?
posted by Memo at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2008


you know who else was a Nazi?
posted by found missing at 11:05 AM on May 22, 2008


you know who else was a Nazi?

Me!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2008


However... grammarnazis.net is such a charged domain. Maybe we could use grammardictators.com? Uhm... no, that doesn't work either. What about grammar-generic-hate-group.com? Nah, too filled with hate. grammar-disagreers.com or wecareaboutyourgrammarreally.com seem like workable alternatives.
posted by Memo at 11:07 AM on May 22, 2008


I highly approve of this, if it will keep such bullshit out of MeFi itself.
posted by languagehat at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


So is the idea that, on this other site, you'd pull writing from Mefi to correct and criticize?
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2008


I understand your desire, Turtles. I really, really do. Unless I am provoked by extreme amounts of provocation, though, I resist the urge to correct people around here (mostly). Instead, I take it out on the writing of my colleagues and co-workers. But hey - that's what they pay me for, so it's all good. In fact, I've gotten to spend the last hour or so eviscerating our proposed house style guide! I have a headache now, but it's still been fun.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2008


Actually, found missing, I think I know to whom you are referring, and I understand that his grammar was atrocious, and so he really didn't deserve the designation. If people thought those dressed up, graphically designed, eugenic warmongers thought they could change the world, wait and see...
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2008


languagehat, thank you as always, darling.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2008


GrammarKlan?

MyPedantIsLongerThanYours?


posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2008


ChoirPreachingTo.com.
posted by Dizzy at 11:14 AM on May 22, 2008


grammarboss.com
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2008


It is time we reclaim the word Nazi, and that little mustache too.
posted by found missing at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2008


So is the idea that, on this other site, you'd pull writing from Mefi to correct and criticize?

No, Ms., the idea would be more of a semi-mock-recovery site where people of our inclination could speak to like minds. And pathetically try to project our agenda, knowing that we are loathed by the general populace. Kind of like we're pedophiles and are ashamed to admit our inclinations to anyone but ourselves. Or a site where we brazenly declare our unpopular ideas. I'm just riffing here, but it's something humorous with a point behind it. And definitely *not* meanly extracting writing from MeFi or any other source and ridiculing it. The idea is that *we* are the victims here.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:16 AM on May 22, 2008


Just re-edit that Downfall clip to include all the major ones (begging the question, affect/effect, etc...) and link to that when it comes up. "WHY DID NO ONE INFORM ME THAT 'COULD OF' IS UNACCEPTABLE?!?!" *bangs table*

(Then of course someone will edit the Monty Python "Spanish Inquisition" sketch as a response, and pretty soon we're conversing solely in SLYT clips like that Star Trek NG episode with the metaphor aliens)
posted by Challahtronix at 11:17 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


(And let me go outside the original scope to castigate all major media, uniformly describing the recent earthquake in China as "massive".
Whales have mass, and are rightly called as such.
Earthquakes have no mass; they cannot be "massive".
Thank you.)
posted by Dizzy at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whats the point? Their our not to many grammar error's on metafilter any ways.
posted by 517 at 11:19 AM on May 22, 2008


Turtles -- you might want to lurk in alt.usage.english for a while and see if you like it. I've been an AUEr for a decade. It might scratch your itch.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:19 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


let me go outside the original scope to castigate all major media, uniformly describing the recent earthquake in China as "massive"

Describing something in this sense doesn't have a form, and the media haven't been using the same form. Therefore, the word "uniformly" is misapplied.

Seriously, you're just making yourself look bad. Language is anarchic and illogical and arbitrary. Don't be an ass.
posted by nasreddin at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, nasreddin, you managed to be a pedant, contradict yourself, and be an asshole at the same time. Breathtaking: Bravo!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2008


If you want to start such a website, more power to you, here's a cookie.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


AUE is pretty hard core.
posted by caddis at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2008


I'm not comfortable with Strunk and White supremacists taking over Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


grammarjunta.com is available and has a slightly lower ick factor...

(No thanks to Myanmar/Burma)
posted by abulafa at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2008


It's OK with me, so long as you don't try and tell me I should say 'try to' instead.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2008


Wow, nasreddin, you managed to be a pedant, contradict yourself, and be an asshole at the same time. Breathtaking: Bravo!

I guess Strunk and White don't help with understanding irony. Too bad.
posted by nasreddin at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I'll pass on membership.
Don't think I'm up to snuff.

Have a lovely day, nas.
posted by Dizzy at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2008


Anyone want to start a grammar nazi site?

"Nazi" should be capitalised.
posted by dydecker at 11:42 AM on May 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


Nobody likes grammar nazis.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2008


I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.

I want to correct them, but I always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.
posted by dydecker at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2008


If people thought those dressed up, graphically designed, eugenic warmongers thought they could change the world, wait and see...

Your usage of "thought" twice here is unwieldy and make your sentence difficult to parse. "Graphically designed" is also the wrong adjective. Perhaps you meant:

"If people thought that those dressed up, eugenic warmongers changed the world, wait till you see what we're capable of.
posted by dydecker at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2008


annoying, innit?
posted by dydecker at 11:49 AM on May 22, 2008


Grandma Nazis? My grandma was a Wobblie!
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2008


dydecker: honestly? From my heart, it's not annoying at all. I appreciate the attention and the helpful suggestions. But, in the first case, I'm not sure that the second "I" is necessary to communicate the intention of the sentence. In your second example, I believe you are mistaken: the whole sentence hinges on, let's say, the pathetic intentions of the dressed-up warmongers in question, rather than what they actually did, so I would let the second "thought" stand.

But again, honestly, I'm not annoyed, but rather excited to engage in the discussion.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:56 AM on May 22, 2008


If we could search favorites by username, we could pinpoint who the major offenders and buy them ice cream round'em up!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2008


I propose we start a website of like-minded people to, unapologetically, promote our agenda.

I propose you first read up on principles of comma usage.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:59 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Turtles, you should get a job as a proofreader and make a few bucks out of the obsession. Sadly, the Internets, and especially forums, don't really care about grammar.
posted by dydecker at 12:03 PM on May 22, 2008


The fatal error was assuming that people here care about grammar. They do, but even more than that, they care about obsessively and publicly detailing the ways other people are wrong.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:04 PM on May 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


annoying, innit?

Only because you were wrong on the first count. It's perfectly acceptable to drop the second "I." There hasn't been a change of subject, and it's not necessary to restate the subject in every clause.

The second sentence you corrected was in fact kind of awkward.
posted by Caduceus at 12:05 PM on May 22, 2008


^cortex: Speaking as a long-time pedant.

Taht is a incomplete sentance. Im gonna like you're "site", Turtles.
posted by not_on_display at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2008


I'd hit it. (with my browser).
posted by blue_beetle at 12:11 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nobody has suggested grammarfascists (available as a .com .net .org .us and .info)?

Or you can take the edge off with the Pythonesque grammarinquisition (NOBODY expects the Grammar Inquisition!), also available on all TLDs.

Or grammarcommander (it almost rhymes, but the .com is taken).

And you really should affiliate with this group.
posted by wendell at 12:19 PM on May 22, 2008


I just happened to see this, about the Typo Eradication Advancement League
posted by pithy comment at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2008


I see a great deal of potential in this idea. We start out with a Grammar Nazi group. Then we branch out: SEO Nazi, CSS Nazi, YouTube Nazi, Poetry Nazi, MySpace Nazi. We could just call the main site "Nazi" and voila! Business. Model.
posted by katillathehun at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2008


"As he had her basket she could not well do otherwise; and she waited, observing him. He set down her basket and the tin pot, and stirring the paint with the brush that was in it began painting large square letters on the middle board of the three composing the stile, placing a comma after each word, as if to give pause while that word was driven well home to the reader’s heart—

Thy, Damnation, Slumbereth, Not.
2 Pet. ii. 3."

(Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Chapter 12-ish)
posted by Jofus at 12:29 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


me does to forming small gorilla rebel group to fite evil dictatorsh1p
we fites gud in the commants and teh trenchez! NVAR GIV UP!

Freadum! Viva la Reziztants!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is already a Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.
posted by lampoil at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2008


Proposal: mathowie could appoint Turtles all the way down official, but temporary, grammarian. Turtles would then have the pleasure of reading and possibly correcting every post and comment on every MeFi site.
After one month, mathowie could review the number of flags and favorites thet Turtles had received in order to decide whether the annoyance factor outweighed the learning opportunity.
posted by Cranberry at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2008


sigh, thet = that
posted by Cranberry at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2008


My grandfather was a grammar Nazi but died when he fell out of his ivory tower.

*flees to Argentina*
posted by Challahtronix at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2008


Your usage of "thought" twice here is unwieldy and make (sic) your sentence difficult to parse.

tsk, tsk
posted by caddis at 1:21 PM on May 22, 2008


Please make it funny. But, perhaps, funny, being shaped and, sometimes, defined by social trends (according to American Greetings), isn't the right way to go, here. For English, being a somewhat established language, only follows trends when it comes to colloquialisms, or more often, internet verbiage. LOLs.
posted by self at 1:37 PM on May 22, 2008


Proposal: mathowie could appoint Turtles all the way down official, but temporary, grammarian. Turtles would then have the pleasure of reading and possibly correcting every post and comment on every MeFi site.

I had a friend who had a forum of his own. He methodically corrected all errors in all posts. He went mad after his user base began making errors to tease him and he ended up in a grammarian rest home. He didn't actually end in a rest home, but it was a near thing.

I will need to look at that list-serv. It sounds fun.
posted by winna at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2008


Totally. MeFi Grammarian, he'd be like an adjunct, uh, mod - I guess? - but only with opinion only privileges? And he could like wield the GarmmarHammer and like pop into threads and GrammarHammer 'em back into shape? But, and, he'd like have to post in line like the rest of us.

But the thing is? he'd get a star by his name.

He could be a GrammarHammer wielding Super-Star. With a Star. We all could be.

There, now have at it.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:44 PM on May 22, 2008


I get paid to proof copy. It escapes me why I would want to see a bunch of amateurs pedantically and incorrectly carp over perceived infractions of whatever style guide they work by.
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'd hit it. (with my browser).

Damn.
posted by Pax at 2:02 PM on May 22, 2008


What fun!
The OP could make a post with glaring errors.
Ever alert, Turtles all the way down would immediately correct it.
klangklangston would object to the correction
The OP would open a Meta thread complaining about the derail.
Hundreds of comments would ensue.
posted by Cranberry at 2:10 PM on May 22, 2008


Do pornography consumers pay attention to the grammatical accuracy of the copy?
posted by Meatbomb at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2008


you're free to take a shot at my incoming email; Viagra is often misspelled
posted by found missing at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do pornography consumers pay attention to the grammatical accuracy of the copy?

Dude, they're just reading it for the articles. Duh.
posted by dersins at 2:40 PM on May 22, 2008


"Did you see this? 'Putt it between my tit's!' That's terrible."

"Bustler Magazine has been going downhill for years."
posted by Skot at 2:41 PM on May 22, 2008


tit's

I guess they still call this a grocer's "apostrophe" in the porn industry?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 PM on May 22, 2008


A grammar can be good or use lots of prepositions and articles but not both. Stupid teeny-weeny nonmeaningful wordbits with no logic and just 'because it is so' explanations when asked and always having to try three or four times just to get through mandatory courses in Italy and Swedish and don't ever start with English which is a language suitable only for repeating phrases barely held together by tradition.
posted by Free word order! at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2008


'Groper's apostrophe', natch.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:55 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd like to point out that the APA manual allows the use of an ellipses followed by a period, whereas the Australian Style Manual does not. If you're going to start your pedant site, you're going to have to decide whose rules you're using. Good luck with that. Oh, and here's a partner for you.
posted by b33j at 3:04 PM on May 22, 2008


Since I'm an active member of MeFi, it breaks my heart to see these things.

Why? Seriously, why?

I propose we start a website of like-minded people to, unapologetically, promote our agenda.

What is your agenda? Pedantry for the masses?
posted by necessitas at 3:12 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ever wish you could travel back in time, Turtles?
To 1:49 pm today, perhaps?
posted by Dizzy at 3:51 PM on May 22, 2008


"Do pornography consumers pay attention to the grammatical accuracy of the copy?"

We get irate letters from folks who expect us to coordinate our invented biographical data with that of other unaffiliated stroke mags, and will send a surprising volume of mail over discrepancies like "April" being listed in Barely Legal as from Plano, Tx. and in Tight as from Bad Axe, Mi. (All the while, she's really some Czech girl from Praha.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on May 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


Look. I apologized already. How many times must I tell you people. I can't spell. My grammar is for shit. It's really not my fault. Sheesh.
posted by tkchrist at 4:16 PM on May 22, 2008


You know, on the Facepunch forums, the ones for Garry's Mod (for Source (ignore the preceeding if you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's only semi-germane (NAZIS!))), there's this one thing that I love.

When people leave out apostrophes or add extra ones or use teh or never use capital letters or something of the kind, the forum software automatically highlights the offending bit of their post, and puts a small red box on the right with a negative number. The more fuckups, the more negative the number. Hovering your mouse over the little red box reveals that it links here.

I love that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:18 PM on May 22, 2008


tkchrist, a Chinese girl in my 11th-grade English class insisted that it was tshish.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:22 PM on May 22, 2008


It is time we reclaim the word Nazi, and that little mustache too.

That little moustache shows up in some unexpected places sometimes...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:28 PM on May 22, 2008


If we could search favorites by username, we could pinpoint who the major offenders and round'em up!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:57 PM on May 22


I think we all know what we need to do once we round them up.
posted by ob at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2008


Send them in sealed trains to camps deep within the interior?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:37 PM on May 22, 2008


it's only semi-germane

You know who else was semi-Germane?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:49 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to drop in and, apropos of nothing, declare that this SF Bike Coalition slogan bugs the hell out of me. One fewer car! FEWER! Damn you, bike advocates!

On the other hand, I think every FPP post I've ever made has at least one typo or grammar mistake in it somewhere. I used to always correct myself before I realized that that just ends up being distracting noise.
posted by whir at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Turtles, I'm totally on board with a grammar nazi site. I also grit my teeth at some of the atrocious stuff around here.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:04 PM on May 22, 2008


You know who else was semi-Germane?

Was her last name Greer? (This is the speeling misteak thread, right?)
posted by h00py at 5:10 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I cant beleive that their are knot web sights that deal with this alot!
posted by fixedgear at 5:23 PM on May 22, 2008


Grammar Nazi → Mr Zingarama
posted by Sys Rq at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why do typos make people upset? Why is having correct grammar so important? What do we do about the rules that don't seem to make sense anymore (ex. two spaces after a period)? Who decides what stays and what goes, and how do we enforce it, and what is the motivation in doing so? And how do we reconcile inconsistencies in grammar rules between people, groups, dialects, books (style manuals in particular), and languages?

I'm asking this seriously, not snarkily.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:31 PM on May 22, 2008


And I answer, seriously, to the last few questions: descriptivism. Live it, love it.

My very own personal answer to the first question is that ignoring bad writing is tacit approval or at least tolerance of bad writing, which in a large and distributed text-based community like this, means that not giving a damn about quality of expression becomes accepted, which lowers the bar. That means that the next iteration in the downward spiral is an even lower bar, and then lower yet, until all we're doing is posting LOL :) HAHA SHITCOCK kthxbye!

See also: Youtube.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:40 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


That said, I don't tend to correct other people, because that's just being a dick, but I do often correct myself when I mistype, and I don't give a damn if that bothers you or not.

;-) LOL kthxbye.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:41 PM on May 22, 2008


You misspelled "kthxbai." Hope this helps.
posted by dersins at 11:07 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's all well and good to know how words are s'posed to go together, but it's just as important to do something interesting with them. Of the six sentences below the fold of this MeTa, four begin with "I..." and are written in a numbingly dull and careful manner, presumably to prevent the poster from being hoised upon the grammar petard himself.

You, sir, have no business correcting anyone's writing.

[Tosses cape over shoulder, exeunt]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:12 PM on May 22, 2008


exeunt = they go out
How many people is/are in that cape with Alvy Ampersand?
posted by Cranberry at 12:20 AM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought the same thing at first, Cranberry, until I realized that it was the cape and the shoulder that were doing the exeunt-ing.
posted by dersins at 12:59 AM on May 23, 2008


...Meaning Alvy's still lurking around here somewhere...
posted by From Bklyn at 2:10 AM on May 23, 2008


I wuld luv a sight liek dat, cuz I culd akt owt in an acektable manur wifowt hurtin noone and b gramacticuly dahmin8d n wrot un wif red ink lik how whut makz me wunt 2 masserbat. its' lak how i got kiked owt of skol. i holp its' naht a pai sight so i can git hard wifowt mai moms' mustarkard.
posted by stavrogin at 4:11 AM on May 23, 2008


The Grammar Slammer Bammer already exists.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 4:47 AM on May 23, 2008


My very own personal answer to the first question is that ignoring bad writing is tacit approval or at least tolerance of bad writing, which in a large and distributed text-based community like this, means that not giving a damn about quality of expression becomes accepted, which lowers the bar.

But stav, the first question was "Why do typos make people upset?" Not "bad writing" but "typos." Nobody likes bad writing; the question is, why do so many disingenuous asshats pretend that misspelled words and misplaced apostrophes are the same thing as bad writing? As Alvy says, what's important is to do something interesting with the words you use. Not only is obsessing about trivia a distraction from paying attention to writing itself, it leads to (again quoting Alvy) writing "in a numbingly dull and careful manner." I'll take an eloquent and impassioned but "ungrammatical" statement over a boringly "correct" assemblage of words any day of the week.
posted by languagehat at 6:09 AM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


WHUT?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 AM on May 23, 2008


I WUZNT PAYIN NO TENSION!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:37 AM on May 23, 2008


LOL!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2008


I'm in the cape with Alvy.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:00 AM on May 23, 2008


We are legion.
We will never forgive.
We will never forget.
We have a really, really, really big cape.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:18 AM on May 23, 2008


Good writing gets your point across. Schoolboy/girl grammar and spelling errors do not usually destroy the meaning of posts and comments here, so let it go–this whole site is a rough draft.

Full disclosure:I do harbor an irrational hatred for the grocers' apostrophe's and the it's/its thing.
posted by Mister_A at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2008


Nobody likes bad writing; the question is, why do so many disingenuous asshats pretend that misspelled words and misplaced apostrophes are the same thing as bad writing?

It might be like a professional musician hearing someone sing or play a note out of tune, which can be emotionally painful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:43 AM on May 23, 2008


I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.

I want to correct them, but I always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.


It is often funny when people speak in favor of high grammatical standards as they often make some minor mistake themselves. Then someone arguing against high standards can point out their opponent's folly.

It is even funnier when people speak in favor of high grammatical standards and make no errors themselves. In this case, those arguing against high standards often end up finding an error anyway and pointing out their own folly.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:55 AM on May 23, 2008


Nobody likes bad writing; the question is, why do so many disingenuous asshats pretend that misspelled words and misplaced apostrophes are the same thing as bad writing?

Because the two are often the same. Of course, there is lots of bad writing out there that's grammatically correct and typo-free. But good writing is not improved by the continual abuse/misuse of grammar and spelling.

The occasional misspelling or typo is whatever, but the frequency with which its/it's, lay/laid/lie, rediculous, misplaced apostrophes, and so on appear is incredibly grating. I may be a disingenuous asshat about some stuff, but not this. Think of something that you do well, and that you like and care about, and that seems to be fairly easy (to you, for you) - coding, painting, fixing the plumbing, roasting a chicken, whatever. Now imagine that there are many, many people around you doing this same thing, and they're doing it wrong. Not the occasional mistake, which you yourself make, but they're doing it wrong in a way that indicates that they either don't care, or that they've been taught that they way they're doing it is acceptable. And when you maybe try to gently (and discreetly) correct them, they tell you that this thing you love doing, this skill that you've polished and tried to get really good at - well, all that learning and concentration you've put into it is stupid and a waste of time, because they way they do it (the wrong way!) works just fine. Maybe it does. Maybe they haven't killed anyone (yet) with their badly roasted chicken, or brought down the Internet with their shitty code, but it's a little...disingenuous to claim that anyone who cares about the right way to do something is an asshat.

There is a jerkish way to correct someone's grammar or spelling. Sometimes there is no good (i.e., polite, respectful) way to do it. Sometimes we just have to let it go (or, in my case, make sure to figure out how to get paid to correct grammar and misspellings and bad writing, and use my irritation for good).

Blazecock's analogy is a good one: it's hard to hear a note sung flat or sharp and not wince.
posted by rtha at 9:18 AM on May 23, 2008


"Blazecock's analogy is a good one: it's hard to hear a note sung flat or sharp and not wince."

Perhaps it's because I've never mastered any instrument, but I've got a deep love for folks like Wildman Fischer or Kelly Caldwell or any number of other musicians who regularly miss notes, crack voices and otherwise make "mistakes." It's like complaining about Ernst's perspective or Godard's jump-cuts.

Or, to take a more recent couple of anecdotes: When I first got drilled on copy editing, usage of "entitled" rather than "titled" annoyed the hell out of me. It took a bit to realize that this was because of the bias of the AP style guide toward removing unnecessary letters, and while I still consider it needlessly pretentious to use "entitled" where "titled" will do, I've come to accept that this is my peccadillo.

Similarly, I'm reading Paul Auster's New York Trilogy right now, and he has, probably five or six times now, used "floundered" rather than "foundered." But I realize that there are two things going on: The first is that language has shifted enough that more people understand "floundered" than the nautical "foundered." The second is that "floundered" works as an equally strong, if not stronger, metaphor for awkward casting-about. The image of the ungainly flatfish flopping is stronger than the ship sinking. That the two have distinct meanings is relatively immaterial, as there's enough overlap that he could use either (though, with regard to the narrator's attempts to abort his biography of Fanshawe, I believe sinking would have been a more traditionally correct choice).

But ultimately, I've come to respect the authority and individuality of the author's voice. Typos, obviously, are unintended and would ideally be corrected before something was traditionally published, but I don't hold comments here to that standard. And sure, there can be distracting moments due to malaprops or homophones or poor understanding of grammar, but generally I take those to be part of the commenter's voice and rarely do they impact my ability to understand the meaning of their writing or cause me any great distress.

The couple of things that I'd add are that I like the phrases "ain't" and "all y'all," and can find many opportunities to end my sentences in prepositions where "that which" constructions are fussy and clumsy. I tend to believe that good copy editing serves the task of improving clarity and reducing disjunctive reading rather than being an end into itself.

I'm sure that I've made some mistakes in this comment, some abuse of comma or tense or subject-verb agreement (and I tend to abuse both introductory clauses and parentheticals), but I have no interest in going back and rereading it.

Finally, Stav's argument of a slippery slope is a fallacious one. If he cares so much about the quality of commenting here, the best path is not to get riled over the informal comments of others but to strive to make sure that his comments are always substantive enough to encourage further in-depth conversation.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 AM on May 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with you, rtha, when it comes to poor-quality "professional" writing, but this isn't professional writing, it's a "community weblog," whatever that is. People dash off comments in haste, and don't have a mechanism to edit mistakes, so you get what you get. I will confess that I get irritated when I see sloppy writing in an FPP, because you should really take some care to get those right. I don't have a handy example, but I've seen FPPs with the name of the subject (of the FPP) misspelled more times than I can count, I've seen factual errors in the FPP, and I've seen FPPs with theses that are diametrically opposite to the content of the links. These things are bad, sloppy, careless writing, and people who perpetrate these evils should feel badly.
posted by Mister_A at 10:32 AM on May 23, 2008


Back on topic: I'm all for a site that promotes and teaches good writing.
posted by Mister_A at 10:44 AM on May 23, 2008


Perhaps it's because I've never mastered any instrument, but I've got a deep love for folks like Wildman Fischer or Kelly Caldwell or any number of other musicians who regularly miss notes, crack voices and otherwise make "mistakes." It's like complaining about Ernst's perspective or Godard's jump-cuts.

I'm not a professional musician, and I agree with you that cracking and mistakes make music special. But my partner is a piano player, and I know a few violinists through him, and we have had interesting talks about how these imperfections, which make a piece of music unique and wonderful for me, can make these professionals cringe in horror. I wonder if some editors or other people who love the written word react in a similar way, emotionally.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2008


You know who else had bad grammar?

"Uncle me no uncle. Favor me no favor."

C'mon. Guess.
posted by tkchrist at 11:41 AM on May 23, 2008


I wonder if some editors or other people who love the written word react in a similar way, emotionally.

Well, sure, and as an editor myself, I cringe too. The difference between me and the asshats is that I realize this is my problem, not the problem of the person making me cringe. Mind you, we're talking about informal writing on MeFi. Text written for publication should be proofread and copyedited to within an inch of its life, and I was pretty pissed off watching Iron Man last night when I saw in the montage of career-summary magazine covers a reference to the protagonist's "taking the reigns." What, you spent $140 million on the movie and you couldn't hire a proofreader? But around here, people should be judged on the substance of their contributions. We have people for whom English is not a first language, people who never picked up the finer points of orthography and punctuation, and people who just don't care about that stuff and prefer to just spit out what they have to say. Snootily and snottily dismissing anything that isn't written to proper Chicago/Whunk&Strite standards as beneath one's notice is like refusing to eat in a restaurant that doesn't have fancy silverware and plating: it's your loss. But if you not only ignore but openly condemn, you're not just a fool but an asshat. Such is my opinion.

And stav, if you have something useful to say, I'd love to hear it.
posted by languagehat at 11:47 AM on May 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


To use the musical analogy: if a professional musician hears someone happily singing out of tune as they stroll down the street, I'm sure they cringe inside. Fine, they can't help it. But if they mock the singer, or tap them on the shoulder and say "Excuse me, but you're not in tune, please take some lessons," then, you know, fuck them.
posted by languagehat at 11:49 AM on May 23, 2008


I'm guessing that there were additional flaws in Ironman that you have not detailed here.
posted by Mister_A at 12:01 PM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't it be called Man of Iron? Or Ironic Man?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on May 23, 2008


Ferrous Man!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on May 23, 2008


It is my understanding, having not yet seen it, that the biggest flaw in the new Iron Man film is that the Starkster isn't roaring drunk for the duration, and that other than that it's actually pretty damned good for a comic book movie.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:08 PM on May 23, 2008


I hear you, klang. The brain is a weird thing: I don't wince or spaz or freak out if I'm listening to, I dunno, Woodie Guthrie, and he hits a wrong note. It doesn't even occur to me that it is a wrong note (I have a pretty good ear). But if I'm listening to, sa, Yo-Yo Ma, and he hits a wrong note, I definitely notice. this example for illustrative purposes only, since I don't know that I've ever hear him go flat or sharp when he shouldn't.

Anybody remember the kerfuffle we had in MeTa we had about the AskMe that was posted using...nonstandard English? It demanded that "posts are required to be reasonably literate."

I came down on the other side in that debate. The AskMe poster, I thought, made her points clearly. She had, to me, a very distinctive voice, one that seemed to me to be quite lyrical.

In most cases, its/it's etc. is not a manifestation of authorial voice - not that I can see, anyway. It's a manifestation of inattention, or carelessness, or not giving a shit. And I get bent out of shape in these discussions because people seem to delight in saying that anyone who does give a shit is just some pedant grammarnazi asshole, and that there is some sort of glory in being ungrammatical.

Mistakes happen. In formal writing, I have someone proofread my stuff whenever possible. I proof my comments here (and miss things ALL. THE. TIME. Because you shouldn't proof your own writing! Also, I am human.) But in both the substance of our comments and arguments here, and the language we use to construct them, we should strive to give a shit, to pay attention, and to care.
posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on May 23, 2008


"(and miss things ALL. THE. TIME. Because you shouldn't proof your own writing! Also, I am human.) But in both the substance of our comments and arguments here, and the language we use to construct them, we should strive to give a shit, to pay attention, and to care."

Well, yeah, especially since one of the best ways to proof yourself is to read it aloud (because otherwise, I find that my brain totally just fills in missing words left and right), and I agree with you that it's better to care than to not care, and that, ideally, "mistakes" should be in the service of a distinctive voice. And I've held up print runs over style questions (including "gantlet," which I feel vaguely foolish about, even though I was supported by the style guide). But I've kind of trained myself to say "Does this harm me? No? Am I being paid for it? No? Well, then it's someone else's problem."
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on May 23, 2008


Oh, and Iron Man's biggest flaw to me was how perfunctory the anti-war messages felt, and how weird and forced the romance with his secretary was. It just wasn't believable, you know, like dudes in giant metal suits fighting. Also, the use of the kid as the emotional catalyst in the war scene (which, upon reflection didn't make much sense either).

But as a comic book movie, it was pretty good.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on May 23, 2008


Typo personalities
posted by whir at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2008


I see writing all the time, not only on Metafilter but everywhere, that is mangled and misspelled. Since I'm an active member of MeFi, it breaks my heart to see these things. I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant and that a corrective comment would be intrusive or unwelcome.

I see people using the word "Nazi" like it's comedy gold, and I want to correct them, but always feel that I am being a pedant...
posted by astruc at 3:05 PM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apostrophe Catastrophes.
posted by zoinks at 3:18 PM on May 23, 2008


But around here, people should be judged on the substance of their contributions. We have people for whom English is not a first language, people who never picked up the finer points of orthography and punctuation, and people who just don't care about that stuff and prefer to just spit out what they have to say.

I haven't read the entirety of the conversation, since it's been growing more quickly than I have time to keep keep up with it, but isn't that the point of the FPP? So that there can be somewhere people who are annoyed by stuff like that can vent their metaphorical steam, rather than, say, having a 120 comment thread of people arguing about what level of standards we should have for the quality of writing of MeFi comments?

My personal opinion, as an editor-in-training, is that I find typos and misplaced punctuation annoying, but as long as the grammar problems aren't actively interfering with my ability to understand what I'm reading, they aren't a huge deal on a weblog on the internet. Grammar is there to facilitate the act of communication, not interfere with it, and I'm a big supporter of the concept of language as a living entity, so I don't generally view grammar rules as things that should be obeyed for their own sake.

I'm losing my train of thought and any point I may have been trying to make, so I think I'll finish this up.
posted by Caduceus at 3:32 PM on May 23, 2008


I understand wanting to have pride in learning and correctly using the spelling and grammar conventions already established. Especially if you have a love of writing, the English language, and whatnot. In that respect, it IS like appreciating well-played music.

However, language is this thing we all use, a group collaboration, and it only works because we all agree enough on the terms and usage to make it functional and meaningful. For the most part, we all accept an overwhelming majority of language, just the way it is, and we try to promote that. The rest we re-negotiate through our usage. Some things get picked up and run with, some don't. But we don't have a whole lot of control of what makes sense to the majority and gets adopted (and a lot of times nonsensical things get picked up too).

When I look at things like misuses of they're/their/there, or common misspellings or mispronunciations, I think of it not as ignorance or carelessness of the communicator, but a tiny discrepancy or troublesome area in the language...something that is still a work in progress, and is being fleshed out by the users. Like the evolution of our knees, or the beta versions of software, or the creation of a website such as Metafilter. It's work is never done; there is and was no moment when it was perfect. There is nothing to strive for other than making it work for us, now. And if I'm in a place where the goal is to exchange thoughts and ideas (as opposed to the goal of, say, publishing a novel or preparing a legal document), and we're accomplishing that goal all right, then picking on the finer points of exactly how one goes about that can actually do a disservice to the communication we are engaged in.

Personally, I welcome typos. Some of them are creative, some of them are funny, some of them reveal things about the people making them, and some of them show us those parts of the language that are difficult to understand and may possibly need some tweaking.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:49 PM on May 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ain't my thing
posted by jonmc at 5:29 PM on May 23, 2008


Do whatchu wanna do
I cain't tell ya
Who tah sock it to!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 PM on May 23, 2008


To use the musical analogy: if a professional musician hears someone happily singing out of tune as they stroll down the street, I'm sure they cringe inside. Fine, they can't help it. But if they mock the singer, or tap them on the shoulder and say "Excuse me, but you're not in tune, please take some lessons," then, you know, fuck them.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 PM on May 23


That's always been my feeling. I'm often in places where I hear bad musical performances or things are just not to my taste, and I absolutely know that it's my problem and that my training has lead me to this point. There's no need to project unless I'm in a professional context and even then there's no need to be a wanker about these things. I'm glad that word-people feel the same way.
posted by ob at 11:28 AM on May 24, 2008


I want to think I can care about correct grammar, and still bear with the out-of-tune singing.
The singing can, for me, evoke a sort of endearment as iamkimiam said about grammar usage. But musical talent becomes solidified during our early schooling only among those musically inclined, whereas the common misspellings of "there/their," etc. were taught and reinforced throughout school for all of us (English language learners, that is), so ignoring these implies an element of choice ("I could write it as it's supposed to be, but haven't time nor inclination").
If I had a school-age child, my own or else a pupil I'm tutoring, for whom I wanted to serve as an example, then within whatever he/she came across of my writings -- either here as a casual observer of my exchanges on MeFi or more formal documents like a letter to his teacher -- I'd hope that there wouldn't be any egregious errors to lead him to wonder, "Well she knows better, she just doesn't care (whether it's spelled/worded correctly)." And at what point would this young person feel any more or less compelled to counteract the demoralizing "chatroom" talk found in youtube commenting and IM shorthand becoming prevalent in his world of reading, letting it become confused in that young mind with what is necessary in composing the proper structure for written language?

Having said that...it's almost remarkable to me that there aren't more grammatical errors among the well-spoken ideas and opinions found here.

Plus, I'm currently reading Jane Austen's Emma and finding numerous examples of words whose spellings (e.g. "felt surprized"; "on the sopha"; "a curious relick") have obviously evolved, as many such words will continue to do, no doubt.

posted by skyper at 11:43 PM on May 25, 2008


« Older Can we have a countdown timer ...  |  the new contacts page is leavi... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments