Grammar lovers, take heed! This post may upset you! Read on only if you are brave and ready to have your writing world ruined…
A Dorky Hipster Ruins Everything
My family has recently become fans of a show called Adam Ruins Everything. To summarize it quickly, take your biggest know-it-all friend, arm him or her with an abundance of well-researched facts from legitimate published sources, add a dose of humility, a dash of quirky comedy and a hipster vibe and you have the recipe to create your own version of Adam Ruins Everything.
This TV show of truth is similar to Mythbusters, but with less blowing stuff up and more funny skits. It covers topics ranging from pets to Ancient Egpyt to drug culture. If you can handle the truth (aka, learning what you thought about the world is completely wrong), the show will give it to you.
My family often finds the show both entertaining and enlightening. Typically, we have no problem with the basic tenets and assumptions of our lives getting blown to smithereens via a 30-minute TV show. (We will never again buy a purebred, or designer-bred, pet and we’re fine with that.) Therefore, it’s not often we find ourselves covering our eyes and saying “No, it can’t be true!” while watching Adam ruin things like the prison system and Christmas. (Did you know the Puritans thought it wasn’t Christian-enough and banned it! Oh the irony!)
We loved getting everything ruined…Until Adam ruined grammar.
When you’re a writer, life is your muse, words are your medium and grammar is your tool. The assumption is without one of these essentials, a writer could not properly write.
Even though I am a young adult novelist as well as an Editor by trade, I would not call myself a crazy grammar person, aka, a Grammando. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means, “one who constantly corrects others’ linguistic mistakes,” and was coined by Lizzie Skurnick from combining the words grammar and commando back in 2012. I’m more like a reformed Grammando. Someone who wants to constantly correct your linguistic mistakes but refrains, mostly. What would you call that? A Grammy?
I am not completely reformed, however. I often catch myself correcting people on their improper use of words like “penultimate” or “atypical” or “mute” or “wary.” (Note: I know this is super obnoxious and try my hardest not to do it!) But I still cringe when I hear someone say, “that’s a mute point.” I can’t seem to help it.
And I do enjoy a good grammar joke as evidenced by the mugs in my house. (See photo evidence below. It’s a classic.)
That said, I am hyper-aware of my own non-perfection in the world of grammar and am filled with insecurities regarding language. Yes, writers feel insecure about writing. Don’t pretend like you’re shocked. This is why I have Grammarly installed on my computer and constantly re-read all of my posts to ensure I don’t make the dreaded you’re/your or it’s/its or there/their/they’re mistakes for fear of utter disgrace! (No joke, I actively stress about this.)
How Can Someone Ruin Grammar?
Grammar fell pretty easily into ruin by pointing out this one tiny fact: language is fluid, making grammar fluid, making being a stickler for the rules kind of meaningless.
I know what you’re thinking. “What? No! How dare you utter such words!”
It’s true, though. There’s no denying it. In the US, we don’t speak or use the same grammar rules as those Christmas-banning Puritans who came to America. (When’s the last time you used the word “doth”? Unless you work at a Renaissance Festival, my guess is never.) Language has been changing and evolving since it’s inception. And while there are many different styles, who is to say what is right and what is wrong? (In the US many people will say Strunk and White. But who made those old stodgy men the authority?)
The Adam Ruins Everything grammar episode provided many interesting examples to support the claim of grammar’s fluidity. Take the word “ain’t,” for instance. Some people associate the usage of this word with being uneducated. (Not me! I said some people!) However, the contraction was actually standard grammar for those of the upper classes in 18th century America. (Translation: The snobby, rich muckety-mucks used the word “ain’t” all the time!)
Adam even debunked my husband’s most hated word “hisself,” explaining it’s actually a more natural conjugation than “himself.” While these examples were interesting, there was one argument that really convinced me we should be more open to variations in grammar and even (gasp) breaking the grammar rules.
What was this sagely wisdom? It’s simple. Instead of using language to divide us, shame each other, or inflict it as a form of class warfare, we should be celebrating the differences in our language and styles, just like we should be celebrating all the differences in people.
Ouch. That one hurt, Adam.
I think I’m starting to come around to the idea though, maybe we should all stop going Grammando and embrace these boundless possibilities of a flexible language. (I mean Shakespeare did. He made up how many words? 200? 500? I need a fact checker! Adam has it easy!) Like with people, variety and diversity make life much more interesting. Here’s to NOT going Grammando!! (Two exclamation points. I’m such a rule breaker!!!)