Friday, February 17, 2017

On Being a Grammar Nazi

I’ve been conflicted lately over whether I want the reputation of being a Grammar Nazi. There’s no doubt that I am one; I’m just not sure if I want that out there for everybody to see.

I’ve been especially troubled lately over the tendency of people to say “one of the only”.

“He’s one of the only people who can understand this policy.”

“Mary is one of the only people in the office that can program in COBOL.”

Ambiguity is a very bad thing. How many people in the office can program in COBOL? Three? Then Mary is one of the few. But is there really only one? Then Mary is the only one, not one of the only ones.

So I arrogantly proclaimed my Nazi-ness to the world, eager to rid it of this literary travesty.

Until I read on the Google-nets that it’s actually okay to say “one of the only”.


My career as a Grammar Nazi can be traced to a 1977 episode of All in the Family. In “Michael and Gloria Split”, Archie tells Michael that he will “loan” him some money. Michael corrects him, saying he had to “lend” him money because “loan” is a noun and “lend” is a verb.

Yea for Meathead, I thought. Archie is just sooo uneducated! (Archie was not impressed. Our grammatical skills are so underappreciated.)

That is, until I discovered that Merriam-Webster — and who can argue with them? — says that “loan” has been a verb for 700 years — and still is.

The famous dictionary site has been wrong before. In my opinion, they completely missed the mark with the whole “try and” vs. “try to” argument.

On the other hand, they totally understand the concept of the extended meaning of the word “Nazi”. (You have no right to be offended if I use the word to describe myself.)

Being a Grammar Nazi is bad enough. Being a Closet Grammar Nazi is a fate I have chosen for myself, to avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous ostracism.

I think I need somebody to pat me on the head and say “there”, “their”, and “they’re”.

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