A friend posted something from Grammarly’s page on Facebook that really set me off for some reason. It was a picture that read “Please do not say ‘supposably’ when you mean ‘supposedly.'” I mean, really? How pedantic can you get? I’ve never seen anyone write it that way, so clearly Grammarly is trashing on someone’s pronunciation. Obviously, they know what the person means when they say it, so why make them feel like crap over it? I want to have a measure of respect for outfits like Grammarly—for the sake of clarity and professionalism, I think it’s important to have a strong understanding of grammar and how it can work to your advantage or disadvantage. But I hate it when these self-appointed “grammar experts” get uptight about trivialities. I’ve yet to see how they are helping the situation by being anal retentive about someone else’s pronunciation. In fact, I find it to be counter-productive, as it tends to turn people off toward grammar and usage.
I find it kind of sad, really. But it’s not unlike those people who balk about how signs in stores should read “10 items or fewer” instead of “10 items or less.” Sure, I know the technical distinction: when modifying a noun phrase that can have a number attached, use fewer, when modifying a noun phrase that can’t have a number attached, use less. But clearly the reader can understand what the sign means, so why bother even pointing it out?
As a system, grammar and language is entirely arbitrary and abstract. Verily, the only part of any language (except Sign Language) that is not abstract is onomatopoeia. When using a sound to represent an object, or a color, or an idea, or an action, it has to be abstract. (That’s one of the neat things about Sign Languages is that they are able to symbolically represent things like objects and actions.) And outside of hieroglyphics, written language is completely abstract.
Part of me always wants to rebelliously fight back against such grammatical pedantry by deliberately splitting infinitives or finding prepositions to end sentences with. There’s something satisfying about making grammar snobs twitch.