Opinion: Grammar snobs should take a chill pill

Opinion: Grammar snobs should take a chill pill

Rather than sticking with just one English major, I signed up for a double dose of the English language by majoring in both writing and linguistics. And because that isn’t enough linguistic activity for me, as head copy editor, I also voluntarily devote my Wednesday nights to correcting people’s grammar.

Consequently, many grammarians assume they will find in me a kindred spirit — someone who will share in their lament over the supposed decline of the English language and desire to stop it from changing further. They actually find the opposite.

I think abbreviations are totes adorbs, I’m all about that slang lyfe and I literally can’t with people who think using either of these things is going to ruin the English language.

What some grammar snobs see as decline, I see as a sign of life. As long as people continue speaking any given language, it will change. In other words, far from corrupting a language, change shows that it is still alive. Thus, the fact that English changes so often and so easily is, in my opinion, something to celebrate.

English’s famous elasticity has allowed it to borrow words from just about every language under the sun; splice words together to get the linguistic awesome sauce of “adorkable,” “smog” and “blog”; slice off the back end of “super,” “whatever” and “totally” for “sups,” ”whatev” and “totes”; verbify the nouns “Google,” “Facebook” and “email”; and shorten entire phrases into versatile acronyms such as “lol,” “idk” and “ttyl.” That elasticity also means that sometimes the meaning of a word changes, sometimes words become obsolete and sometimes even the “rules” of grammar change. That’s okay.

If you’re still harping on the distinction between “who” and “whom,” please, for your own sanity, let it go. “Whom” is clearly on its way out; no one person is going to change that, so everyone will be much happier if you stop trying. And frankly, unless your goal is to convince everyone that you are a pretentious tool, using it won’t do you any favors in everyday conversation. Likewise, I really wouldn’t let the distinction “lay” and “lie” keep you up at night. Fifty years from now, nobody will remember it was even an issue.

Anyway, the mythical rulebook for the English language on which so many grammarians base their arguments for traditional grammar doesn’t actually exist. Contrary to what your elementary school teachers told you, English doesn’t have any one official set of rules; technically, there is no “right” way to speak it. So although there are sets of rules for certain contexts — journalism has AP style, for example — the grammar police aren’t going to come to your door if you fail to use “whom” in the objective case.

Grammarians have tried and failed to control English for centuries. Their intentions may be noble, but their concern is misguided, and their battle is always going to be a losing one. English isn’t in decline. “Change” isn’t a synonym for “the devil.” If anything, it is the thing that keeps a language’s heart beating. So, grammarians, please chillax — maybe even embrace the occasional portmanteau or acronym — and let English’s heart beat in peace.