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Monday, May 17, 2010

Grammar is Garbage

I wanted to make a post about grammar because I do not really see people object to grammar. Most people are under the impression that grammar is a great thing and we should respect it. I do not. I think that grammar is pointless, and I think that grammar scholars, or whatever they are called or call themselves, is one of the biggest waste of jobs that exist in the world.

I understand that basic grammar is necessary to express our thoughts in a clear way. Primitive men first developed nouns to describe objects and then verbs to describe the actions that go along with these objects. More complicated words did not exist yet. So all thoughts were simple combinations of nouns and verbs. A more complex language enables us to express complicated ideas, and sometimes very abstract ideas, like what I am writing at the moment. But to make our ideas clear we need some really basic grammar. Without it, we may still be clear, but it would be more confusing to understand us. Rules for periods and commas are really helpful. They help separate and organize our thoughts. So yes, I acknowledge that basic grammar skills are useful and should be learned by people who wish to understand and be understood more clearly.

The kind of grammar I am objecting to is the radical grammar. Grammar that insists that we put a comma just because it said so. Grammar that insists that we speak in a certain way just because it said so. What really makes me want to vomit is that these grammar scholars debate on these questions. Debate?! Who needs to debate about arbitrary made up rules that we pulled out of our own anus? I can understand that we debate about evolution and creationism because we are making a truth claim. I can understand that we can debate about the correct economic model because we would like to understand the economy more precisely. But who debates about arbitrary made up rules? If I make up my own board game I do not have to debate it. I get to assign my own rules.

Take for example the debate in grammar of whether we need to use a comma after "and" or not. Thus, should I say, "guns, drugs, and pussy" or should I say, "guns, drugs and pussy"? My question is, "WHO CARES?!". Why does this trivial point matter? Some people will put a comma because they like to put commas and some people will not put commas because they do not like placing commas. Why does it matter? Why should it matter? Whether a comma is put in place or not in this particular case is irrelevant, the thought is clear. As I said, basic grammar is necessary to make our thoughts clearer. However, there is a line not to be crossed over. Those grammar scholars who spend their time figuring out which rules need to apply to some trivial instances of grammar are wasting time. That is why I consider them to be among the most wasteful jobs that can exist. Their labor has no value.

Another example that really bothers me is spelling grammar. Some grammar scholars insist that we spell one way and not another. Do I write "labor" or "labour"? That is more of a distinction between American and English. Do I write "color" or "colour", "center" or "centre", "generalized" or "generalised"? My question, again, "WHO CARES!?". These are two separate spellings of the same words. English people learned to spell one way by their tradition. American people learned to spell another way by their tradition. American and English people can perfectly understand each other. So why should it matter? These grammar scholars cannot allow a peaceful coexistence of different languages. It bothers them. They want one absolute rule for everyone.

But what bothers me more than anything else is that these grammar scholars object to certain language. For example, "aint" is considered to be grammatically wrong? Basically, what "grammatically wrong" here means, is that it is a word that does not agree with arbitrary made up rules by these grammar scholars which they pulled out of each other's anus. Who cares? Language is always evolving. It is always changing. Different people developed one way of speaking a little different from a more common way of speaking. Black people often say "aint" and they also use double negative. For example, "I dont know nothing". That is a double negative. I agree that double negatives should be avoided, because logically two negations on a statement is same as not putting any negation on a statement. But in other languages this is not so. In Aramaic for instance there is no rule against double negatives. The Gemara often uses double negative language. But here is the thing. Even though I disagree with double negative usage, I am not bothered by it. In fact, I am entertained by it. It has a nice sound to it. Or the practice of putting "at" at the end of a word. A black person may say, "I aint got no knowledge were da money is at". Notice the double negative. Notice the usage of "aint". Notice the practice of attaching "at" at the end of a sentence. This is a nightmare for a grammar scholar. But not for me. I like that phrase. Even though it is English, it is a different dialect.

Language is always changing. There are many versions of speaking here in the US and no version is the correct one. I like the black version, it is artistic, and has a nice sound to it even though I do not speak it. But what bothers me about these grammar scholars is that they insist on one uniform standard of speaking. That is too boring. It is more exciting to have minor different versions of language. Language today is so different than what it was 200 years ago. These grammar scholars want to only live in the present and not evolve the language into some new one. So that is why grammar scholars have a pointless job and they can sit on my middle finger.

I would like to conclude about people who are obsessed about grammar even though they are not grammar scholars themselves. From time to time when you debate with someone, they will come along and tell you, "what you said is grammatically wrong". I get that sometimes. They say that in order to make themselves feel smarter than you. They want to correct you in something. Telling you that, "you are grammatically wrong", essentially translates into, "you would break my language rules which I arbitrary pulled out of my anus". So for me, "you are grammatically wrong" is a worthless response in a debate. What is important is to respond to my ideas, not to my grammar usage. It is fine to point out an error in my grammar if you happen to think it is basic grammar. But do not act as if you scored some debate points on me. Grammar does not make your smart.


  1. I did poorly in grammar in school but...

    What you fail to appreciate is that people can use language on many different levels and with many different styles.
    Simple medical analogy: for the average person, it's headache, bad headache, migraine. For a physician, a migraine is a specific type of headache, not just a really bad one. Yes, one could say that in "common parlance" migraine means bad headache but that's just not correct no matter how many people think it is.
    Languages may evolve but they do have rules. Take your example of "ain't". Okay, the word exists and given the apostrophe it clear is a contraction, but a contraction of what? Nothing, so it can be a real word no matter how commonly it gets used.
    Ultimately for people for whom precise language is important grammer is a necessary thing to ensure that what is communicated is doing so correctly. Grammar doesn't make you smart but knowing grammer makes you speak correctly. For people who don't care about finer things like this, none of that will matter but for those of us who do, it ain't our problem.

  2. Jewish Ahtiest: You have a very nice post. You expressed what I wanted to express much clearer than me.

    Since we are talking about different kinds of language. I really enjoy ebonics, even though I cannot speak it. Perhaps my enjoyment is just that I am a forgeiner to it, but nonetheless, whatever the cause, it is such a fun language. The words, the phrases, and the expressions are entertaining as well as creative. Black people sure know how to much boring stuff interesting. Every church service that has every existed is boring. Every generation church service gets even more boring. But not with black churches. They have their black goseph choirs that clap their hands and they have their crazy screaming preachers. Same with language. I am not complaining about the kind of English I speak, it is fine, and can be extremely precise. But ebonics is like an artistic way to speaking. I live around Harlem and go to school year, so I pick a little of it up.

  3. Let's just make sure we don't stretch language enough that 'cat' refers to alligators.