Do you remember the term, “Grammar Nazi?”
In the 2000s, during the era of textspeak, many people (including my preteen self) prided themselves for always writing in longhand while others chose to abbreviate their words to save precious character space.
Those people were called Grammar Nazis, and thankfully, this term is rightfully recognized as insensitive and isn’t used anymore.
Young writers are taught to emulate verbose writers like Steinbeck or Dickens, or even Tolkien. Being able to craft complex sentences and use an array of vocabulary must mean you’re a talented writer, right?
Wrong. I mean, not totally, as there’s a lot of hard work involved with understanding the structure of the English language. But to discount writers who don’t wax poetic in every line is elitist.
Kind of like how the English language itself is elitist.
By making the language more difficult to learn, it was easier to distinguish up-jumped commoners from the gentry—people born with noble titles and lands. You know, people who were considered “the right stock.”
Today, we consider the “wrong” stock of people to be groups traditionally associated with not speaking “proper” English—low income white and black people and people who spoke another language first, such as Hispanic and Asian immigrants. But you know who we don’t associate it with?
People who speak French, Italian, German, or any other European language, specifically those that have been associated with classic ideas of royalty. And why might that be? Certainly nothing to do with skin color or perceived income.
At the end of the day, it’s classist and racist to correct someone for their way of speaking or writing, especially if you’re not an English teacher. It prevents marginalized groups from sharing their thoughts, and works written using overly complicated language are actively trying to weed out people from their audience that the author considers unworthy.
So, for those of us who are still nitpicking the correct “your/you’re,” please take this column as a sign to drop it. Whether it’s in a comment section, a research paper or a blog post, it ain’t cool anymore.