Not a grammar nazi

You know like, so, um

grammar naziI looked it up: “A grammar nazi is a pedant who compulsively criticizes or corrects people’s grammar mistakes, typos, misspellings, and other errors in speech or writing.” And that never was me, although I have been accused of the same.

Either in this blog or my old Times-Union site, I openly surrendered the fight over its and it’s. I’ve discovered that even people who are otherwise good writers simply can’t get it. It reminds me of a Paul Simon interview about how, when working with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, they just didn’t understand things in minor keys.

The only people I correct over typos are a handful of my fellow bloggers, and then always by email or text. The number of typos I have made on Facebook is enormous, ironically often made worse by autocorrect.
I can NEVER spell tintinnabulation, which means “a ringing or tinkling sound,” without looking it up. For years, I misspelled Pete Townshend’s last name as Townsend.

Basically, if I understand what is intended, I’m good. This is why the new definition of literally so utterly confounds me.

In part, that’s why I’ve adopted the singular they, because, ultimately its, I mean it’s, less confusing.


I’ve come around to accepting the use of the filler in informal speech. What is that? “In linguistics, a filler, filled pause, hesitation marker, or planner is a sound or word that participants in a conversation use to signal that they are pausing to think but are not finished speaking…

“In American English, the most common filler sounds are ah or uh and um … Among younger speakers, the fillers ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘I mean’, ‘okay’, ‘so’, ‘actually’, ‘basically’, and ‘right?’ are among the more prevalent.”

It’s not as though I like, you know, “like”, especially in its Valley Girl intonation. However, I’ve been watching JEOPARDY – no surprise. During the interview section, Mayim or Ken will ask about something on the contestant card that they fill out. Mayim in particular will ask a question as a statement. “You hung out in the South Pacific with sharks. Tell us about that.” So many contestants will reply with “So” before launching into the story that I’ve given them a pass.

And if you’ve been on enough ZOOM meetings, you know it’s difficult to ascertain when a person is finished talking. A “you know” or “um” is actually a useful cue to keep me from interrupting someone.


Finally, I’ve never been that fussy when the culture tries to verbify a word from another part of speech. I remember that a columnist – I don’t recall who – was fretting about the word “party” becoming a verb! PARTY is a NOUN, they grumbled. Somewhere between Sam Cooke’s “We’re having a party” and Prince’s “We’re gonna party like it’s 1999,” that fight was SO lost.

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