Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite
by June Casagrande
Recommended Ages: 12+

Have you ever enjoyed the delightful experience of having your grammar, punctuation, or usage corrected when you thought you were right? No, of course you haven't. Half of the time, it happens because you learned a rule, somehow, that turned out to be wrong. The other half, or perhaps a bit more (these categories can overlap), the person correcting you is just as clueless, if not more so. In some cases, you find yourself at the business end of the poison pen, or blue pencil, of an intolerant, pedantic bore whose quasi-erotic obsession with periods and colons is sometimes a bit scary. And at the furthest extreme of the spectrum are those truly obnoxious incidents when that intolerant, pedantic bore is wrong, or at least, is weighing in about a question on which there is no widespread consensus, even among grammar snobs. This book applies the best medicine, i.e. laughter, to the sting of situations like these, and follows it up with solid information that you can throw back in those snobs' faces.

There are chapters in this book about the dos, don'ts, and who-careses (?) of such grammatical bĂȘtes noires as split infinitives, danglers, and prepositions at the end of sentences; the uses and abuses of apostrophes, commas, and other punctuation marks; "lie" and "lay," "affect" and "effect," "may" and "might," and other pairs of easily confused or dubious words; possessive and subjunctive forms; the minefields of subject-verb agreement; and a great deal more that is both entertaining and useful. It's a fix-your-own-grammar book for dummies that doesn't judge. It arms the grammatically insecure with linguistic ammo to shoot back at the grammar snobs who, perhaps, don't really know as much as they would like you to think while they crush you with their intellectual superiority. It points out gray areas, open questions, points on which different snobbish treatises disagree, and the maddeningly arbitrary and byzantine rules that glaringly differ from one style guide to another (for example, between the leading standards for editing newspapers and those for editing books). And it makes the actual rules clear, simple, and memorable, with a down-to-earth, personal touch by a naturally witty writer who has really been through the @#$%.

The chapter titles of this book alone opened the door, during my recent vacation among family members who live two states away, for reading several passages aloud, to the enjoyment of all. Some of these chapters include "Is That a Dangler in Your Memo or Are You Just Glad to See Me?"; "Semicolonoscopy"; and "Hyphens: Life-Sucking, Mom-and-Apple-Pie-Hating, Mime-Loving, Nerd-Fight-Inciting Daggers of the Damned." The book ends with "Satan's Vocabulary," a handy guide to pairs and clusters of frequently confused words that proves the English language is a demonic strategy to drive us all crazy, as well as a serious bibliography that belies the book's pretensions to not taking the subject seriously. So, on top of being fun enough to read that it doesn't feel like research, it contains a lot of research. What a deal!

Boy, do I look forward to dropping copies of this book on some grammar snobs I know, and some of their frequently frustrated victims, who will enjoy it as much as I did. It especially appeals to me because of its application to a career in the newspaper business, something I have in common with its author. Casagrade is a newspaper humorist/columnist specializing in grammar, whose other books include The Best Punctuation, Period; Moral Syntax; and It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences.

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