Aug 16, 2010

correct me no corrections

Every time I tell a stranger my primary occupation, they say a version of the following: "Oh, I guess I'll have to watch what I say!"

"I'm not on the clock," I usually reply. The mock-fear of being corrected by the Grammar Police both saddens and amuses me.

Where does that mock-fear come from? People like this:
Rosenthal, who is in her early 60s, asked for a toasted multigrain bagel -- and became enraged when the barista at the franchise, on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, followed up by inquiring, "Do you want butter or cheese?"

"I just wanted a multigrain bagel," Rosenthal told The Post. "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want.

"Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."
No, you are not. You are what you called the barista: an asshole.

Why? Because there's nothing grammatically incorrect about the barista's question. It's a logical problem--a false dichotomy--but only if it's pronounced a certain way. The accent matters. See below:

"Do you want butter or cheese?"
Without any emphasis, the possibility of neither is perfectly sound. Just answer "no thanks."

"Do you want butter, or cheese?"
Now we have the false dichotomy.
And once again, there is a perfectly reasonable and polite way to answer: "Neither, thanks."

One more thing: when you go to Burger King, you certainly do have to decline the things you don't want: the meal deal, the meal deal King-sized (or whatever they call it at Burger King), and whatever else the order-takers have been ordered to upsell that week.

So, in conclusion: step down from your grammatical high horse, Ms. Rosenthal.  The world needs less false dudgeon.

[via Slate's Twitter feed]

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Well said. There certainly are more important things to get up in arms about than that.