Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Literary Nazis

If you have spent any time on the Internet, and especially in the comments sections of blogs and news sites or on message boards, you have probably seen someone referred to as a grammar Nazi, or more likely, a spelling Nazi.

But is this an accurate label?

The historic face of Nazism is, of course, Adolph Hitler. Nazi government was totalitarian; Hitler was a dictator. ("1. a ruler who is not effectively restricted by ... laws ... .") [1] Law had no restraint over Hitler because Hitler's rule was law. Whatever he wanted the law to be, that is what it was. If he changed his mind, so did the law change. The law, his law, was anything he desired it to be.

The problem here is that law is meant to be a standard. Civil law is a society's standard of justice. Grammar and spelling rules are the standard of written language. If a standard constantly moves or changes it is not a standard. Hitler was the law in Nazi Germany.
If standards of acceptable behavior in society were to change at the whim of any one person or group of people, there would be huge problems. If people can make their own rules, then why is what James Holmes did so terrible? Or Ted Bundy? Or ... 9/11?

I understand misspelling a word is not the same as killing someone. But in this time when we are told that "truth is not absolute," that "what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another," what is the difference?
And so, because I believe (with this eloquent commenter [2]) in standards of language and spelling, I say that those who write and spell with the same respect for grammar and spelling rules that Hitler showed for the sovereign national border of Poland are the true grammar Nazis and spelling Nazis.

[1] "dictator." Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 14 Aug. 2012.
[2] This is a comment posted in response to's The Hot Word blog post: "These words may be removed from some dictionaries — find out why, and if you agree."

i say no, cuz u'l neva know when pple need dem. Every word is important its nt jst it era yet. on August 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm
i say no,u neva know wen we all are going 2 need those words 4 diff purposes.every word is important and significant no ma how short. Its nt jst its time yet, hang on

It is interesting that the commenter considers that "every word is important and significant," but he/she can't be bothered to take the time to spell them out correctly.