English Major Confessions: Grammar Nazi

“Oh shit, don’t judge me if I don’t talk good,” she said. We were at a party and had just met. I don’t remember her name, but I remember she said it.

Well,” I said. “If I don’t talk well.” I didn’t want to let her down.

A lot of people have said some variation of that to me. I used to work in an ice cream factory. (It’s not as kick ass as it sounds, but I did get free ice cream.) A coworker asked me a question and I answered, “Yes.”

“Why’d you say yes? It’s so proper.”

“What else would I have said?”

Yeah,” she told me.

I didn’t realize that using yes instead of yeah gave off an air of sophistication, but apparently it did. Then again, I’m a pretty sophisticated dude. I wear a tie to formal occasions. And I own a monocle.

One more thing: Do you have any idea how much English majors loathe the words, “Hey, can you proof read this for me?” My answer was always a reluctant sure. Just because I was studying the language, didn’t mean I had any interest in correcting others’ papers. Not only that, but a “proof read” would often turn into a “rewrite” and that just wasn’t acceptable. Further, my writing guidance is very laissez-faire. I’m a firm believer that if people think about their writing, they can figure out how to make it better. I would correct the grammar and punctuation, but when it came to content, I left that up to the writer. If they asked me how to convey a point, I’d tell them, “That’s for you to figure out.” I probably wasn’t the best person to ask to proof read a paper.

But despite me earning a useless degree in the English language and its literature, I’m not much of a stickler for grammar in everyday use. In fact, as an ESL teacher, grammar is the least of my worries. It’s easy to use grammar to take and distribute points but it’s not an effective tool to gauge the understanding of language. Grammar is not needed for communication.

So I’m not really a grammar nazi. If people talk to me and say good instead of well (unless it’s my father) I don’t correct them. I don’t really care. If someone writes your instead of you’re in a Facebook comment, I don’t break into a cold sweat. The only time I demand these rules be followed is in a formal writing setting. And by that I really mean for school and business.

But when people hear that I’ve a degree in English and they automatically assume that I’m a grammar nazi, that’s when I make damn sure to correct them whenever I can. Because I most certainly want to disappoint someone’s expectations.

Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.

2 thoughts on “English Major Confessions: Grammar Nazi

  1. I understand your pain to some extent. I’m not an English major; I studied Translation, and that has made people assume that I am now a walking dictionary. If I don’t know the meaning of a word, they give me this look of pity and disappointment and say, “I thought you studied translation?” =/

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