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No True Fascist

I don’t like the use of the term “grammar Nazi”. Believe me when I say that it has nothing to do with the terrible actions of the actual Nazis. My apathy about such taboos is no secret. I’ve heard some say that common references to historical horrors diminish the significance of those events, but I don’t have time for that. No one’s actually going to stop taking these things seriously in appropriate situations because they’re used less seriously in other situations. Do you know what I mean? There are plenty of ways to use concepts like Nazism in productive ways. The Soup Nazi’s a pretty good example. His appellation compares him to his historical namesakes through his intensity as it contrasts the scope of his dominion against theirs. Rampant Nazi flavour is also a part of what makes Darth Vader and his friends seem credible and stylishly intimidating. The fact that they didn’t actually kill millions of real people doesn’t make it seem disrespectful. This sort of dissonance isn’t just restricted to Nazis either. Games like “Call of Duty” are tremendously popular in all parts of the world. This is true despite the fact that players generally take the roles of American soldiers, which means that there are a bunch of Japanese kids right now who are gleefully murdering caricatures of their grandparents. And it’s fine! Really. I can’t say that it would be wise to bring that sort of attitude into other aspects of life, but I hold to the belief that fiction isn’t responsible for bad behaviour. People who do bad things in imitation of fiction would have been inclined to do bad things anyway.


I’m also wont to believe that there’s a sort of numinous statute of limitations on historical villainy anyway. Would anyone actually be bothered if Tolkien had come out and said, “Yeah, the orcs were totally an allegory for the Ottomans. I’m surprised no one picked up on that.” Out of respect for the guy, I should probably say that that is exactly the sort of thing he would never do, but the point stands. Nobody would really care. Well, someone probably would. I realise that it’s essentially impossible for people to bring themselves to shut up for a moment or two, but I accept it because I don’t really like silence either.


Anyway, I should probably get back to the point that I haven’t really mentioned since the introductory sentence. The term is problematic because the Nazis were actually good at what they did. What they did was horrible, but they still did it well. Hitler was like the Wolverine of racism.



Conversely, I’ve never encountered a pedant who actually knew what he was doing. Few of them even try to hold themselves to the standards they arbitrarily impose on others. Furthermore, Nazis actually had a cause. They were disastrously misguided in their pursuit of that cause, but their fundamental goals weren’t inherently unreasonable. They just wanted their country to be glorious. It’s fine to take issue with their definition of glory, but I can readily understand that drive to be awesome. I don’t even really know what could justify pedantry, though. It’s fine to be eloquent, but it’s hardly imperative for everyone. A lot of people can communicate effectively without being grammatical. That’s actually sufficient in most situations. Unsolicited corrections just waste time. In that sense, one could say that they actually bring the level of discourse down. I’ve actually worked as a proofreader, but I never correct anyone unless I’m specifically asked to do so. I’d like to get to a point where I can replace the word “asked” with “paid” in that sentence, but my resume is still pretty light, and the print industry doesn’t really seem to like paying people. Still. How weird would it be if Mr. Whipple got invited to a party and tried to stop all the other guests from squeezing the toilet paper? Weird and annoying. We understand that that’s your job at the supermarket, George, but you can’t be taking your work home with you.


I’m even inclined to abhor prescriptivism of any kind. I like to speak, act, and do various other things in certain ways, but it wouldn’t be sensible of me to expect others to do the same. I don’t want everyone to be like me. I just want them to like me. There’s a pretty significant difference.


What other possible motivation is there for pedantry? Well, I suppose that some might do it because they don’t have anything of value to add to the conversation, which would mean that the people who claim to care about language are incapable of using it productively.  If that’s true, there’s a somewhat depressing sense of irony in it.


Like . . .


Alright, guys. Does anyone know the amount of effort that genocide requires? It’s not easy. Those guys actually had to know what they were doing, whereas your average pedant doesn’t even seem to be able to expend enough effort to remember the difference between an object and a subject. I even had an English teacher like that once. I remember a particular meeting with her in which I casually referenced an occasion on which my father had brought my brother and me to the cinema. Obviously, I used the word “me” because it was the grammatical object of that sentence, but this incompetent hedge witch took it upon herself to lean back, raise her eyebrows, and say, “‘My brother and I.’” My father, who was actually sitting beside me at the time, instinctively placed his hand upon mine to stop me from raising it against her. Striking her obviously wouldn’t have been the kind of thing I would have actually done, but my arm definitely felt the urge. I might also say that this took place at a private school. The kind where parents actually pay considerable amounts of money for the education of their children. I can’t believe that my family’s money was intended for such mediocre instructors. On the other hand, this was the same school that gave me good marks for a philosophy essay I wrote on the X-Men. Actually, another teacher even gave me a decent grade on a separate piece I wrote for biology, which involved the X-Men and David Bowie. “You’ve got to make way for the Homo Superior!” Was that Magneto or Ziggy Stardust? I don’t think that it matters, but that was the closing line. Anyway, I suppose that my time at that school wasn’t wholly unpleasant in retrospect.


Anyway. What were we talking about?


Nazis were monstrous but efficient. Pedants are petty and ineffectual.


I think that that’s a decent summary.


Copyright © 2011, Jaymes Buckman and David Aaron Cohen. All rights reserved. In a good way.