Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At Long Last -- Grammar Snobbery Scientifically Explained

According to a piece on MSNBC.com, there exist people who are snobby about grammar! (Who knew?) And, as if that piece of breaking news weren't enough, the article actually goes so far as to seek out and find a scientific explanation for the phenomenon.

Experts in the article say that grammar snobbery is most definitely probably might could can be explained as follows:

1. Hanging on to some kind of rule might be comforting to people.
2. Stress can affect how forgiving people are of spelling and punctuation errors.
3. An obsession with proper usage may be related to some kind of perfectionist streak.
4. Or it could have to do with childhood patterns of wanting to please adults or teachers by doing things right.
5. Putting somebody down by pointing out their bad spelling also could be a power thing.
6. Or it could simply be part of the brain’s natural function.
7. “Attribution theory comes into this as well. ... My mistakes are caused by external circumstances, but others’ are caused by a lack of skill or a character flaw.”
8. "Character has nothing to do with it."
9. Researchers at Oxford University believe the ability to spell may have more to do with our DNA than the amount of time we spend with our nose in a dictionary.
10. Others believe nutrition and sleep patterns can affect the way our brain manages the arduous task of learning the English language.

That's right, folks. With this kind of scientific insight, I bet we're just months away from developing a pill that will cure grammar snobbery altogether. If only we could develop a cure for grasping-at-straws feature writing ...

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4 comments:

Blackwell said...

Please please please find the pill. I barely survived our department meeting today.

June Casagrande said...

Pill for what? For grammar snobbery or for no-substance feature writing.

For the former, the pill is readily available (though sometimes hard to administer). It's the question: Says who? The minute you demand a source from the pedants, you plant the seed of understanding that their pedantry is 99% groundless.

For the latter -- the pill for no-substance feature writing. That one's even MORE readily available and almost IMPOSSIBLE to administer. It's us. The minute we stop tolerating articles that one day say coffee is poison and the next day say coffee is the fountain of youth, and the minute we stop buying into "trend stories" is the minute journalists know they have to put more substance in their shovels.

Either way, the future's not looking too bright!

Blackwell said...

A pill for grammar snobs and arguing relentlessly about moo points (yes, I am quoting Joey from "Friends").

And hopefully my students will start getting the latter! It kills me the things they come asking me about. Check your sources, dammit!

June Casagrande said...

I've been thinking about doing a project on media literacy that would try to address just that kind of misinformation. Don't know if I'll ever find the time or the energy, though.

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