Grammatical fanatical. Or not.

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.

A to Z Challenge: Johnson’s Wit, Jane Austen’s Fight Club

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what  I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

It’s staff meeting week for me, which means long hours and explode-y brain. This, in turn, means a shorter post today, and only two links of procrastinatory yumminess, but both links are well worth the visit.

You may or may not be familiar with Samuel Johnson, a British lexicographer, poet, writer and intellectual from the 1700s, who is probably best known these days for being the subject of a biography by James Boswell. Johnson had some intolerant and misogynistic views (hardly a surprise, given the context of his times), but he also had a sharp wit, and it’s always pleasant to pass time reading excerpts from the English dictionary he compiled or from his other works. For example:

  • “Wine makes a man more pleased with himself; I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others.”
  • “A fishing rod is a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other.”

On a completely different note, many of you have probably already seen this video, but even if you have, it’s so very much worth watching again:

Jane Austen’s Fight Club

And I’m afraid that’s all my poor, beleaguered brain is capable of right now.

There are some terrific bloggers participating in the challenge this year. Check them out over here.