Grammar Nazi is a phrase that refers a person who understands the difference between a colon and a semicolon. They hyperventilate in the “12 items or less” checkout line and tell the cashier it should read, “12 items or fewer.” They know when to start paragraphs and where to insert parentheses. You will never catch them in public with their participles dangling.
They understand that punctuation can kill. A simple comma can be the difference between being a cannibal or an excited kid at a picnic: “Let’s eat Grandma!” or “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
However, I’ve always wanted to ask a Grammar Nazi this question: If punctuation, syntax, and grammar are that important, aren’t metaphors and similes, too? I’m curious why literate lovers of language pick the worst metaphor of the twentieth century to describe themselves: Nazi. To liken a commendable activity to the most maniacal, genocidal, murderous, and torturous group in history makes no sense to me.
Furthermore, calling someone a Grammar Nazi is like calling him or her the Grammar BTK Strangler; or the Grammar Boston Bomber; or the Grammar Lizzie Borden; or the Grammar Bin Laden; or the Grammar Columbine Shooter.
I know Grammar Nazis don’t mean any harm; it’s a colloquial, rather than pejorative, term meant to describe themselves as guardians of language. I applaud them for caring that my verbs agree with my subject. I’m grateful they want to help me communicate more better. (Yes, I did that on purpose.)
I’d prefer Grammar Jedi Master; or Grammar Drill Sergeant; or Grammar Coach; or even Grammar Martha Stewart; anything but Grammar Nazi.
If someone equates their aspiration to clean up the English language to genocidal maniacs who exterminated the lives of six million Jews, then they shouldn’t get upset if I don’t pay much attention to their comments about my writing.
For the sake of simplicity and elegance, I vote that Grammar Nazis call themselves a more sophisticated term: Grammarians.
As a writer, if I’m told someone is a Grammarian, I will bow in humble respect to those who understand the construct of language. I will learn from them.
But if I’m told someone is a Grammar Nazi, I assume they want to destroy me. I will run from them.