Mighty Red Pen

December 19, 2007

To grammar nazi or not to grammar nazi?

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 9:03 pm

Lively post on GrammarBlog about a war of the words that erupted in the comments section of a blog at the Washington Post. Here’s an excerpt of the comments:

Grammar nazis–stay home.

Posted by: IggyPop | October 26, 2006 12:59 PM

grammar nazis need not apply

Posted by: | October 26, 2006 12:59 PM

Grammar Afficionados [sic] WELCOME.

If we can’t depend on the press to use our language correctly, we’re doomed.

Posted by: | October 26, 2006 01:07 PM

Afficionados is snob language for jerk; two people agreed that the term grammar nazis was appropriate at the exact same time. Case closed!

Posted by: | October 26, 2006 01:09 PM

You have to be kidding to think that pointing out the incorrect use of two third grade words is Grammar Nazi behavior.

This blog reads like an elementary school paper.

If you don’t want professionalism, read the Washington Times.

Posted by: Grammar Nazi | October 26, 2006 02:20 PM

This gives me an opportunity to ask a question I’ve been wondering about. The term grammar nazi: yea or nay?

Well-documented that MRP prefers the term word nerd as being a more neutral, family-friendly term. Language Log has an interesting discussion about the use of the word nazi to describe anyone who is militant about something (a la Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi).

What do people think?



  1. Yea.

    But as I see it, word nerd is something completely different. Word nerds really love the language, and while we might be amused or saddened or angry or pleased when we catch an error, our geekery is deeper than just that.

    A grammar nazi, on the other hand, is just someone who really enjoys being “correct,” and uses a set of memorized language rules to that end.

    My guess would be that very few people who actually work with language for a living are grammar nazis — it’s got to be hard to sustain that uncompromising attitude when you’re dealing with the quirks of English every day — but people who comment on a blog post just to point out the grammatical errors would seem to deserve the title…

    Comment by Dan — December 19, 2007 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

  2. I actually find the use of the word Nazi as a term for one who is merely militant quite offensive. It is one of those situations in which impression in language leads to a diminished understanding of history, politics and the human capacity for evil. National Socialism and, in particular, that blend of superstition of ideology that was the Nazi Party shouldn’t be equated with even the most pedantic, condescending and offensive grammarian.

    As word nerds, we understand that there is real power in language. Words are the means by which we understand the forms and shapes of our world. They are the tools by which empires are built and through which revolutions are kindled. Words not only have meaning, they lend meaning. If we allow words like Nazi and Communism to simply mean something like ‘bad’ or ‘disliked’, then we have lost some part of the reality of political discourse.

    The next time you go to the supermarket, check out the sizes in which laundry detergent is offered. It usually runs (from smallest to largest) something like: large, extra-large, economy, and family. Large is the smallest size. How did that happen? In marketing it is idiocy. In history and in political theory, it is far more sinister.

    Let’s reserve the term Nazi for its original, undiluted meaning.

    Comment by David — December 20, 2007 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  3. That imprecision in language in the above post. That’s what imprecision in mouse clicking during spell check gets you. 😉

    Comment by David — December 20, 2007 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  4. Yea. But although I’m not personally offended by the term “Grammar Nazi,” I try to avoid using it since it does have a negative connotation.

    When referring to folks who love grammar, I like to use “grammarphile” most often…although I’ll tongue-in-cheekly (ooh, that sounds weird!) refer to myself as a Grammar Bitch when the mood strikes me. 😉 (Sounds a little edgier but less militant than Grammar Nazi.)

    Comment by The Grammarphile — December 28, 2007 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  5. Thanks for chiming in, everyone. I think that David’s comment really gets to the heart of what makes me uneasy about the use of this word. I try to avoid it myself. But I agree with Dan, too, that there really is a difference between “grammar nazis” and “word nerds” in the way he describes. And I really find that the militancy that others associate with “grammar nazis” gives word nerds a bad image!

    As for grammar bitch, well . . . I think we all have one inside . . . even MRP.

    Comment by mightyredpen — December 28, 2007 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

  6. I prefer the term “grammar cop” because of the negative connotations Nazi brings to mind. That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with correcting the blatant and juvenile misuse of our language; those “memorized rules” were taught to most of us in mid-elementary school, and although I personally take pleasure in being correct, it is not about merely being right. This goes much, much deeper than merely correcting minor mistakes. The errors I correct are errors in usage, in punctuation (or lack thereof), and in spelling. Is there something wrong about correcting a thirty-five year old with some college education who repeatedly spells ‘definitely’ as ‘defiantly’ and insists that ‘mabey’ is the correct spelling of ‘maybe’? Is it bad to straighten out a person’s usage (mis-usage) of ‘their, there, they’re’ when they have stated that it makes no difference?

    I was brought up and educated in an era when spelling counted, grammar was studied (remember diagramming sentences?), and homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms were studied and we knew the difference and could apply the correct word when needed. That was an era when clear, correct, and concise communication was expected–written and verbal–and grades were reduced for errors.

    In my school days, anyone writing this sentence: “dono wut ur sayn but ur dum coz their r to tipes u can get” would have been transferred over to remedial English at best, and the Special Education class if necessary. Today, that is considered acceptable in texts, social media, and email. My concern is that if people are so lazy that they write like this, have they ever learned the true importance of accurate communication? It should be that I say what I mean, not you understand what I am trying to say.

    I am now, and always will be, a Grammar Cop–and jubilantly proud of the fact.

    Comment by Iman Oldgeek — December 15, 2013 @ 1:11 am | Reply

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