But Mona, doesn’t you correcting people who correct people’s grammar and calling them purveyors of white privilege make you an ANTI-grammar snob?
This won’t take long. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Mona Chalabi, a journalist for the British tabloid “The Guardian,” has asserted that correcting someone’s grammar (and presumably word use, sentence structure and other aspects of effective communication) is racist.
“Grammar snobs are patronizing, pretentious, and just plain wrong, ” she says. “It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance when it comes to grammar snobbery. The people pointing out he mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension. All too often, it’s a way to silence people, and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up.”
Of course, correcting anyone to humiliate them, embarrass them, or make them hesitant to speak is cruel and wrong, as would be slapping them in the face and shouting, “Shut up, fool!” Neither of these, or other examples of bad manners and disrespectful treatment, is the conduct that Chalabi is condemning as a demonstration of white privilege, however. (Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, frequently quips, “White privilege—is there anything it can’t do?”) No, she is saying that the simple act of one human being pointing out to another that they have made a verbal mistake that may embarrass the speaker in the future makes the person offering the correction a “grammar snob,” and is unethical.
To the contrary, correcting anyone’s mistakes in speaking, when done with discretion and proper attention to the speaker’s feelings, is a gift, an act of social kindness and even a social obligation. Expressing oneself in a manner that causes others to conclude, possibly correctly, that you do not know correct meanings, grammar, construction and etiquette is a serious life handicap and an obstacle to success. A listener may conclude that you are badly educated, do not read, do not listen to those who speak to you correctly sufficiently to learn from them, are ignorant, are not very bright, or worse, know how to communicate but don’t have enough respect for the rest of the world to make an effort to do so. Unlike concluding such unflattering things about a stranger or casual acquaintance based on an accent or verbal regionalism, making judgments based on poor communication skills is not prejudice or bias. Communication is a vital life skill and occupational tool. Every individual has an obligation to master these as early as possible, certainly by young adulthood. Believing one has done this and being wrong is a dangerous and potentially tragic situation. Continue reading