Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Question #21: Noble Grammar Snob?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 21: Is upholding the finer points of grammar a noble endeavor or petty snobbery?”

Most of my life has been spent in accordance with the official rules for the English language, and a good deal of my teenage and adult years have been spent looking down upon those without skill in this arena.

Then awhile back I read this post by Painting the Grey Area.

Go on, read it. I’ll wait here.

[Thumb-twiddling.]

So. Thoughts?

To me it resembles nothing more than the issue of classical music (orchestras especially) in modern society. As a classically trained musician, I have done quite a bit of thinking and reading on the subject (I highly recommend Greg Sandow’s blog) so will start there and extrapolate back to our question of grammar.

Classical music is not better than all other musics.
Yet classical music is a richly rewarding art form.
On average, more training required of its performers, composers, and conductors than rock or pop.
It provides breathtaking scope and depth of emotion as well as the development of ideas over time to an extent unmatched in the traditional popular arena.
It has a subtlety of tone color, dynamics, and melodic complexity not often found elsewhere.
Yet it also requires more of the listener — not in terms of education, as some feel, but in terms of focus. Despite common usage, it makes poor background music, in my opinion, compared with rock, pop, jazz, “world,” or any other genre. Complete aural submersion akin to meditation is best.

And back to official laws of English grammar? Can we rephrase the above?

High-brow English is not better than all other dialects.
Yet it is a richly rewarding language.
On average, more training required of its speakers and writers than other dialects.
It provides breathtaking scope and depth of emotion as well as the development of ideas over time to an extent unmatched in the traditional popular arena.
It has a subtlety of tone and grammatical complexity not often found elsewhere.
Yet it also requires more of the listener — both in terms of education and in terms of focus. Despite common usage, it is much less readily texted on mobile devices. Complete visual or aural submersion akin to meditation is best.

My answer, after much mental wrestling? Both, of course. Upholding the finer points of grammar is a noble endeavor when constricted to one’s own writing or via formal education or informal education by request of the recipient only, and petty snobbery if used against others with scorn.

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