Don’t You Think It’s Time to Retire the Title ‘Grammar Nazi’?
After a disturbing rise in hate crimes has some people rethinking the term ‘Grammar Nazi,’ maybe it’s time we retire the phrase once and for all.
It was several years ago that a reader complained about the term “Grammar Nazi.”
Here was the comment the reader left:
“As a Jew I think its disgusting how the term ‘Nazi’ is thrown around like it is today. My great grandparents died at Auschwitz; my family will never forget what the Nazis did to our people. Be careful when you use terminology like this…”
As it happened, my use of the term was merely in quoting someone else who identified themselves as such.
But it’s clear the term is considered offensive to some people.
I’m not Jewish, but it really doesn’t require being Jewish to understand why the term could be considered offensive, even when the term is used in a negative way against someone else. After all, it’s not like a “Grammar Nazi” is perceived as a positive personality.
As Mike McQuaide put it in an article for the Luxemburger Wort, who referred to the character of Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” as the possible origin of the phrase “Grammar Nazi,” this type of use “reinforces the idea that Nazi is the definition of the worst-thing ever.”
One of his commenters said Czechs use the word fascist in a similar way to describe someone “who follows rules ‘too much’ or ‘too literally.’”
But in recent years, and particularly in recent weeks, as racial tensions have risen, there’s a new call to bury the term.
“Grammar Girl’s” Mignon Fogerty says she has resisted the title of “Grammar Nazi” for years, even adding to her bio a note that she hates the phrase. But now, she says, it’s time to give some serious consideration to retiring the phrase. There are, she says, plenty of alternate phrases to use — from “grammarista” to “grammando.”
I suggested the phrase “Grammar Police,” which seems to be generally far less offensive, though a series of incidents involving police officers may eventually call that usage into question as well.
In New Zealand’s Stuff, Lee Suckling comes up with a valid suggestion: the “Grammar Troll.”