Excerpt from Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

By June Casagrande

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback: Mar 2006,
    224 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


In a 1980 piece, Safire demonstrates a surprising capacity for understanding the dangers of language superiority. "Some of the interest in the world of words comes from people who like to put less-educated people down—Language Snobs, who give good usage a bad name." But after authoring that piece, Safire went on to spend the next twenty-five years writing columns that snootily drop more names than you can count. In a single "On Language" column reprinted in his book Coming to Terms, Safire makes reference to Hermes, Mercury, Library of Congress manuscript division chief James H. Hutson, Warren Harding, Roger Sherman, Max Farrand, Attorney General Edwin L. Meese III, seventeenth-century theological author Richard Burthogge, editor Hugh J. Silverman, Zeus, Martin Heidegger, Irving Kristol, Jacques Derrida, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Stuart Berg Flexner, and Heritage Foundation constitutional specialist Bruce Fein.

So much for our great defender of the less-educated little guy.

Perhaps it's no coincidence that both Kilpatrick and Safire have had long careers as political columnists—conservative political columnists. And perhaps the fact that one William F. Buckley Jr. authored one of the language books at my local library is further evidence of something funny going on here.

It's certainly not my place to speculate whether there exists any correlation between conservative political punditry and uptight, anal, quasi-erotic obsession with impossibly strict language rules and/or mean-spirited superiority. My job here is only to examine the shared affliction of these men to consider the question: What crawled up their behinds and died? For argument's sake, let's say it was a bug.

So, transitioning not so gracefully into the lesson phase of this chapter, would you say, "A bug crawled up Kilpatrick's and Safire's behinds and died"? Or would you omit the first apostrophe and "s" and instead say, "It crawled up Kilpatrick and Safire's behinds"?

Though both sentences have a certain on-the-money ring to them, the first one sounds better, doesn't it? That's because the question of whether to use the extra apostrophe and "s" has to do with whether the possession is shared or separate. If Kilpatrick and Safire shared two behinds, you would say, "Safire and Kilpatrick's butts." If they shared a single behind, it would be "Safire and Kilpatrick's butt. (And no doubt it would also have to work double overtime to expel both men's special brand of genius.)

But because it's safe to assume that each man has his own distinct and vise-tight posterior, you would say, "Safire's and Kilpatrick's butts."

No doubt right now you're probably thinking, "This whole question is ridiculous. A single bug could not have crawled up both their butts and died, unless of course it was some kind of super zombie bug that can rise from the dead to irritate again."

So, looking forward to the day when science can transcend such limitations and genetically engineer a fanny-loving phoenix bug, I concede that, for now, you're right.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande. Copyright 2006 by June Casagrande. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin
  2.  170The Weight of Blood:
    Laura McHugh

All Discussions

Who Said...

Anagrams

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.