So, I’m half-German. But the other half of my heritage fought the Germans. Despite that identity crisis, it was always easy for me to be against any type of Nazi, save for two varieties.
- The Soup Nazi – because comedy.
- The Grammar Nazi – because I was one.
I’ve never been a Soup Nazi, but someone has to protect the soup, ok? However, I was a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi for a long time. I found myself easily picking out rule-breakers and self-inflicting punishment on myself for bad grammar habits.
Yes. I was a bit of an extreme child in that way.
I’ve since healed from my misjudgment and and the injuries from snapping a rubber band on my wrist. Now, I occasionally use “like” as a filler word, dangle on a preposition, put “me” and another person in the wrong structural order, and say “10 items or less.” Guilt. Free.
How have I freed myself from these chains? you might ask. It’s actually a much more profound journey than you might expect.
First of all, I started writing. LOLOLOL
Nothing is more crippling to a writer than insisting on always writing perfectly. And after figuring out that my creativity was hindered by constantly wondering if I wrote things properly, I loosened up. But don’t be fooled. I still had high expectations for other people, especially online.
Why? I don’t know. It was ridiculous of me.
If someone so much as used the wrong “there/they’re/their” in their argument on the internet, their whole argument was trash. Right? Amirite?!
Nope. So wrong. But I didn’t figure that out for a really long time, unfortunately.
Fast forward and my writing had pretty much stopped. I had kids. I spent a lot more time on the internet trying to find the answers for how to not screw up a child. Some people are terrible and conveying things in writing, especially tired moms. I started having to look inward to see if I could figure out what they meant. And deciding if I agreed with what they meant, not what they wrote. I was misunderstood often enough to see the value in this.
This may seem unrelated, but in the context of my Grammar Nazi dying layer by layer, this next season of my life was the death blow: learning Japanese.
*breaks out in maniacal laughter* HAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes a tear*
If you want to put your Grammar Nazi to death as quickly as possible: GO LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE. I promise. It’ll set you straight.
Seriously, nothing will make you see how ridiculous English is faster than trying to learn a much easier language with a stubborn adult brain. Goodness, was I humbled. And it was the first time in my life that I saw how important it is to go out of your way to figure out what people were trying to say rather than get hung up on the way they said it. Because that flipped script is NO FUN to be in.
Killing my Grammar Nazi wasn’t just about feeling more at ease about how I was communicating, nor was it about losing the frustration when I saw other people screwing up the English language. I realized it was about being compassionate. It was the first step I had to take to get to a much better place as a human: becoming someone who can be trusted with misunderstandings.
See, it’s about much more than proper spelling and punctuation, ok? I have seen heated arguments on the internet go south, between two intelligent, perfectly grammar-saavy people who are completely missing the point of what the other is saying. I’ve seen them do this while arguing about perceptions of misunderstood people.
Yeah. I’m glad I killed my Grammar Nazi. And if you have one that still smugly comes out now and then, maybe you should kill yours too. Take up an obscure language, see if he survives. And, I’m really not talking about giving up your editing career or something. We use the term “nazi” to point out how unwelcome and harsh the criticism is. If it’s invited, it’s more like a Grammar Professor, who is interested in clarity and goes out of his way to figure out what you mean. He doesn’t burst into a biology class and demand literary essays. He goes on with his life even if you fail his class. Grammar Professor is a good guy.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a stickler for grammar rules, but only if it’s when the rules are important. Say, in a book that’s supposed to be published, or a college essay, or just when you want to be clear. But there’s a totally different thing at play when you enter discourse with someone else. That person is human. You is human. None of us in the human species are perfect. And, seriously, it is excruciating to communicate when you don’t have the knowledge to do it. Writing taught me that, raising kids taught me that, and learning another language definitely taught me that.
Be a better human. Murder your inner nazi.