In the past week I happened across two videos that approach English usage from opposite ends of the should/should not spectrum. (And when I say “happened across,” it should not for a second be assumed that I mean I encountered the videos while squandering precious precious editing minutes prowling around the interwebs in search of grammatical hilarities and linguistic amusements, because of course I have far too much self-discipline and restraint for that. Except, of course, when I don’t.)
You’ve likely already seen the videos, because I tend to find myself choking on the dust of stale internet goodies as they stagger their way into oblivion following their nanosecond of fame, notoriety, or general wow-ishness. As I say, though, they were new to me, and what struck me about them (other than the content which is tasty and brain-pleasing in both cases), is their unexpectedness.
I mean, really. Who would have expected to see Weird Al weigh in as a champion of good grammar? Or Stephen Fry–one of the most eloquent, erudite and linguistically capable speakers of the English language on the planet, surely–to take up the cause of the poor, downtrodden grammar abusers? There’s a very pleasing symmetry of contradiction there, or so it seemed to me, anyway, which is why I decided to share the videos with you.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Word Crimes:
Stephen Fry vs. Grammar Nazis
Who wins the argument? I can be an insufferable grammatical pedant when the mood strikes, but I have to say I’m with Stephen Fry on this one. There is a time and a place to grab hold of those pesky rules of grammatical rectitude and grapple them to your soul with hoops of steel (to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, and, yes, I know Shakespeare was referring to friends, not grammar, but to some people those grammatical rules are as precious as friends, so I think he wouldn’t mind me borrowing, and, whatever, he’s dead, so there’s not much he can do about it, is there?).
So, yes, time and place, yadda yadda, rules of grammar, yadda yadda, but there is also a time and place for getting off the high horse and remembering that of all the many things that matter muchly in this mucky, messed up, heading-to-hell-in-a-handbasket world, meticulous attention to grammatical exactitude is really not so very close to the top of the list.