Book Title: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite
Author: June Casagrande
Category: nonfiction, nonfiction: how to
I recently went to Toronto for 12 days. With me, I brought a thick book for the plane, with the intention to read that and only that – avoiding the temptation to buy books that I would only have to pack up and lug back to Victoria days later.
I acquired three books during my stay in Ontario.
Do you know how many bookstores there are in Toronto? Lots. My first day wandering through the city I came across two that caught my fancy. The first was Indigo/Chapter’s self-professed “World’s Largest Bookstore”, a statement I’m not sure I completely believe the validity of. I’ve been to a store in Portland, Oregon, Powell’s Books, that also claims that title – and it certainly felt larger (they give you a map to the store when you walk in the front doors at Powell’s!) The amount of merchandise crammed into every spare molecule of space at the Indigo store might out-volume Powell’s though.
I didn’t feel like buying anything in the World’s Largest Bookstore though, it all felt so corporate, as if I could practically feel the pain of the smaller bookstores being forced out of business all around it.
So I continued along in my exploration of the city, and came across Nicholas Hoare, a beautiful, spacious bookstore, with cozy spots to curl up with a prospective purchase. It was just such a better feel for a bookshop – a local bookshop in the largest and busiest city in Canada. I felt at home there. So I bought two books. And told them what an awesome shop they run.
One of the books was this one, Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: a Guide to Language for Fun and Spite, and it was an excellent purchase. At first I worried that I was a Grammar Snob – I was after all, the editor of my high school yearbook. And I wondered about a few of my friends, and whether their similar single-mindedness in yearbook editing & pickiness when it comes to fonts would put them in the Grammar Snob Category. But I worried for naught.
This book is real grammar advice, explained in plain (although not un-colourful) English, with hilarious examples, and jokes at the expense of the vast number of ‘meanies’ who write grammar columns in large newspapers, or write into grammar columns to complain about the lack of grammar. I loved this book. It’s hard to narrow down a few examples to explain just why I love it so, but one that immediately fights to the front of the pack has got to be the chapter titled “To Boldly Blow: Only Windbags Fuss over Split Infinitives” (and there’s a chapter about the differences between titled and entitled as well!). I have a particular affection for the eternally recognizable phrase this chapter’s title alludes to.
Star Trek also gave us our most famous example of a split infinitive… “These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
…Misinformed grammar snobs say that the “to” and the other half of the verb are like Kirk’s good side and his evil side: They should never be separated. Thus, the meanies argue, that little word “boldly” comes between the inseparable “to” and “go” – a grammatical homewrecker.
…Happily for us, this “rule” has about as much authority as Chekov.” (pg 14-15)
I had better stop before I just type out this entire chapter verbatim*, but suffice to say, any book that can use Star Trek as an example like this within the first 20 pages, is my kind of book. And it’s most likely your kind of book as well.
*And if some windbag ever tells you that the famous Star Trek opening is grammatically incorrect, you can tell him to boldly blow it out his transporter. After that, you’ll have no more tribble at all. [pg 16]