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

  • 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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Happiness belongs to the self sufficient

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

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.