By: Ellen Siefke
I recently went through an existential crisis of sorts, the kind that causes you to wake up at 4 a.m. with a start. As any of my former roommates would tell you, I sleep like the dead. So what caused me to wake up so suddenly?
Easy: The realization that my life’s work is completely and utterly pointless.
I speak not of my love of playing the guitar, of running or of washing dishes. I speak of my obsession with grammar.
Those who know me might be shocked to hear this. Nevertheless, I hope that they will soon enough come to thank me, as I urge them to liberate themselves of their grammatical bindings and allow themselves free reign when it comes to the English language.
Why does grammar exist? What even is grammar? Why is it so difficult?
The answer is quite simple — grammar constitutes nothing more than a mindless set of rules and regulations designed to make losers like myself feel better about themselves.
See, we’re a lonely group. As children, while our classmates dreaded diagramming sentences or completing English worksheets, we relished in our efforts. We loved making subjects and predicates agree, picking out participles and keeping those infinitives whole. We spent our time in our happy bubbles, eager to devour any grammatical knowledge that came our way.
However, as we aged, we realized that the rest of the world did not share our passion. We saw dangling participle after dangling participle, split infinitive after split infinitive, run-on after run-on, heavily cringing all the while. How could someone just look at a run-on and find it acceptable? How could someone split our precious infinitive? The lack of grammatical knowledge appalled us.
So, the sweet, grammar-loving kids became “grammar Nazis.” Armed with red pens and stylebooks, we sought to rid the world of bad grammar. We would not tire, we would not rest, we would not stop until everyone knew the difference between “its” and “it’s,” until everyone said “you’re welcome” instead of “your welcome,” until everyone used “could’ve” instead of “could of.”
But in the process, what became of us? Well, we became losers. While our peers spent their weekends out at the movies, out partying with friends or otherwise out having a good time, we holed up in our rooms, indulging in the OED, Follett’s Modern American Usage or E.B. White’s Elements of Style. We convinced ourselves that the more we studied, the better we could fulfill our mission.
At some point, we began to recognize the sad, pathetic truth of our lives. So we kept creating grammatical rules to imagine that we weren’t really losers. But we failed miserably.
So here I am, the dorkiest of the dorks, having wasted my time obsessing over grammar in a world that will inevitably remain full of bad grammar.
Well, I give up. I renounce grammar; I refuse to submit myself any longer to a bunch of arbitrary rules just to feel better about the fact that I am a loser who does nothing but mark up a bunch of papers. I will no longer pretend that I have actual friends beyond my precious grammar books and red pens.
So split you’re infinitives, tell your English professors that you right real good, make all the run-ons you want, use all the slang, yo. Place commas, here, and there, worry not, about punctuation — at all. Say your doin’ good and throw in colons: and semicolons; whenever. ignore, capitalization, its to hard anyway. Say you could of done gooder in english class
More than anything rejoice in this newfound freedom to actually do whatever the heck you want with english: so godspeed, my fellow horribly grammarians, godspeed.
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