I’ve always been a bit pedantic about pedantry.

What I mean is that speech defects don’t bother me. Split up your infinitives; Use “literally” figuratively. Pluralize “octopus” as you see fit. I won’t flinch or complain. To me, language is an ocean that we all sail on, and freezing would simply bring all maritime traffic to a standstill (not to mention killing all of the octopods).

No, what annoys me are people who annoy about the language.

Police work “less” against “less”? Throw matches over “her and me”? Unless you are a professional editor and you are being paid for your pedantry, I see such behavior as hectoring perfectionism. It offends me far more than the crimes it tries to correct.

This allergy goes beyond language. I’m excited for food snobs, music snobs, and movie snobs. All snobs, actually. To me, we’re all just stupid, heartbroken beings trying to find some joy and ice cream during our few decades on earth. I have no patience with stupid broken hearted creatures who think they’re better than the other stupid broken hearted creatures.

But I am guilty of hypocrisy here because I love hearing from pedants and snobs.

If you scratch a pedant, you will likely find someone who has an exquisite ear for language. Read a volume of linguistic pedantry like Eat, shoot and leave or Dreyer’s EnglishI am inevitably fascinated by the musical prose and the clear aesthetics. Pedantry and poetry often go together: If a comma splice screeches like nails on a blackboard, it may be because a well-timed colon like Ella Fitzgerald is singing to you.

The domains I am most snobbish about are the domains I know best. Make my hot chocolate thick and flavorful (and toss 80% of what’s out there down the drain). Quickly and structurally make my sitcoms inventive (and spare me everything related to CBS). Make my science fiction short stories vivid, haunting, and conceptually rich (and let’s skip straight to the Hugo nominees for most of the years).

The same may be true of math snobs. Maybe they’re so picky about subtle technical points because they have some kind of logical synesthesia. Edge housings shine in bright colors. Bad notation flashes in neon green. Incorrect calculations sound like out of tune melodies – which of course means that a good calculation fills the air like a refrain in harmony.

A snob is someone who obnoxiously insists on their own aesthetic vision. If you can look beyond insistence, the vision can be great.

Because of all of this, I have some humble advice for snobs and pedants of all kinds.

First, The core of your snobbery is an aesthetic vision. That’s great! We can benefit from your vision!

Second, “Choosing” “bad” things rarely helps. It just makes you seem like a disgusting elitist. We are sorry.

Third, Instead, celebrate good things. Hold up successful models. Sing their praises. Paint us a picture of what great music / food / sitcom gags look like. We peons can learn.

Last and most important: Better taste doesn’t make you a better person. A human life is about kindness, compassion, service, and joy. It’s about comfort in grief, humor in absurdity, and ice cream sandwiches any time of the year. If you happen to have a perfumer’s nose then bullying for you.

But if you think this makes you better than, you’ve only shown how limited your aesthetic vision really is.


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