Dear Grammar Nazi’s, Your purpose is a lost cause.
In school, I had a hard time in the English Language class, there were too many rules. The dyslexic in me had an even harder time. I had trouble learning the tenses, the syntax, the prefixes, the suffixes, and the spellings! My God! But, one advice saved me– “Ask yourself if it sounds right?” and henceforth, that’s what I did, and figuratively aced all my tests ever since. Even with the comma, I was told, “Place a comma at a pause”, and being the cautious speaker that I am, you’ll see a lot of commas here. Apologies.
Here’s the thing with Language, it is medium of communication. It evolves from our dire need to express and is unrestricted to words. (Words are great! They are so many of them, that mean so many beautiful things! At the same time! They are open to interpretation! And come together to make sonnets and poems! And other wonderful things! I love words!) Words themselves are actually sounds and symbols and the meaning. (Aaahh, meaning– the sweet purpose.)
One word can convey so many different meanings. There is no, one true meaning of a word, is there? Even the Oxford Dictionary, has at least two meanings per word, figuratively. (With the Grammar Nazi’s around, you have to be, oh! so very careful!)
Words, express different meanings for different people; they fluctuate between contexts and concepts; they are dependent on the pronunciations and enunciations; they are ever evolving from each other, merging with other meanings to give birth to new words. So how can, one Language contain so many words?
The 171,476 words in the Oxford Dictionary seem insufficient to express all the emotions and meanings, across the world. Maybe even all the dictionaries of the world combined– don’t seem enough.
And if theoretically, we accept that languages have emerged from each other, much like the evolution of man, then that would mean that there is only one Language! A species evolving throughout time!
English just being the predominant dialect, right now.
May we say, English is to a Language as an Asian is to the Human Species?
What about Grammar?
The point of Grammar is effective communication– the purpose of Language.
One might argue that Grammar is only for the written language, and my counter argument in that case would be, that doesn’t Grammar also itself, change from context to context? So when one is writing in Java, is the language grammatically incorrect?
I am by no means in opposition to Grammar. Grammar too, is a wonderful thing. It is the rules on which Language rests. It is the tool manual that helps Language flourish. An artist is not much without his tools, and his ability to construe the rules of his trade.
Rules are good.
That being said, who sets these rules? And who updates them?
In this following assertion, I can only vouch for my perspective of the matter.
Growing up in India, and having been schooled in a convent, English was a big deal. In school, not speaking in English would be punishable by school law. Inspite of being from a bilingual family, catching up with English was not really hard, but was necessarily British English; with high doses of Enid Blytons’ and Agatha Christies’ and the likes. We were penalised for reading anything American– even Archies Comics.
This was the late 90’s, so private channels were already making headway in the television scene in the country. Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon being predominately my indulgence, in the original language mind you- the infamous American English.
While, not remotely close to the British colonisation era and way too close to the American culture; and not to mention the numerous Indian languages surrounding, the middle school me– it was a Language overdose. Picking up on correct Grammar was expecting too much of me. So, I stuck to it “sounding right” technique. Even with the distinctive pronunciations, I got away with it most of the times but it was never a cent percent.
Writing was tougher still, because there was the additional burden of the spellings; American accents don’t write the way they sound.
Playing victim aside, this is a tiny insignificant documentation of the evolution of Language. The rules are no longer set by one particular culture anymore; post-modernism is illustrative of that. No longer is there one dominant culture, and as the world grows smaller, the more idea of an universal Language finds relevance.
English, including all its several sub-dialects, is the most effective Language in the world, right now. It is not only widely spoken but also has in a way become the Language of Science, making it even more powerful.
It’s immense ability to absorb other dialects is remarkable. Words like “saree”, “ketchup” and “perfume”, no longer need italics for emphasis on their non-English origin. Everyone is welcome, and rightly so, because you can’t express every meaning effectively within the conformity of one Language.
English also gave way to many adorable sub-dialects like the Instant Messaging dialect, and the purposefully-incorrect-to-sound-cute dialect (Example: “where you be?” or is that only me?) or the Hindi-written-in-English dialect. The count grows– ever changing, ever growing.
You’re not going to go up to Yoda, and, him correct, you are?
In theory, for the first time in human history, no two individuals speak the exact same dialect. Thus becoming the masters of their own Language. They themselves are the rule setters and the breakers; in charge of their own Grammar.
So, dear Grammar Nazi,
Let go. As long as you understand what one is saying, know that there was no right or wrong answer to begin with. Put an end to the ‘anyway vs anyways’ war.
Refrain from being the elite conformist, dictated by the rules of yesteryears. Embrace, all forms of Language, for all their glory. Set yourself free from the need to be right. Bask in the brilliance of evolution! And the World! And Language!
And sometimes, when you have to bite your tongue really hard, try and appreciate the uniqueness of speaker, look for clues to their history and accept them for being true to themselves, if not the spoken language.
For in the end it’s about the meaning and not how it was spoken.
The Dyslexic Writer