Did You Mean

friends > books
Lately, I've caught myself correcting people's grammar in daily conversation. And while I rarely miss an opportunity to be pedantic, I've decided to stop. Well... mostly.

As is my disposition and as someone interested in human motivation, I find the intention behind the correction compelling. Is it an attempt to gain a psychological advantage over a rival male? Odd, I rarely correct women. Are women inherently superior elocutionists? Or, like always, does my helpful correction belie an ulterior motive? I can't beat you up in a fight, but I know the difference between "whether" and "weather." It's not rocket science. But, this explanation seems shallow.

When someone speaks or writes improperly, they break the rules. There are rigid rules of engagement we've created for our banter and correspondence. When someone misuses language, it's as if they built hotels before building houses.

We panic. Are they unfamiliar with the rules? Is it purposeful? Is this a coup? Have I been left behind?

Language, as Wittgenstein was well aware, is a game. We agree to an inordinate number of rules, both spoken, written, and unsaid. If someone were to roll a single die in Monopoly, we'd politely offer its companion. Not out of rudeness, contempt, or dominance, but out of politeness and in the spirit of the game.

How often does someone's gramatical blunder actually obscure their meaning? So what, peruse means "to study carefully." I know what you meant when you said you perused the tabloids at the checkout. I knew exactly what you meant. And isn't that the point? Language is a tool and the dictionary is the lexicon of rules and regulations. But if the rules interfere with the spirit of the game, we ought not follow them. If 99% of the population uses peruse this way, that's what the word means. Acknowledging it is an act of civil disobedience. Pounding on old books doesn't offer solutions. Yet I feel compelled to say something? If the purpose of language is to communicate and I'm using the rules to hinder our conversation, rather than forward it, I'm the asshole. Not you.

Even more egregious is the slip of the tongue correction. When you excitedly call Walking Dead a movie and not a show, it requires a special breed of pedantry on my part to purposely misunderstand you. I must ignore your intention and the point of your speech act so I may interrupt with a wholly superflous interjection. You don't actually think it's a movie. You, in trying to articulate something to me and express and idea, confused two visual mediums. Instead of hearing you and thanking you for your vigorous and interesting commentary, I've decided to miss the point and correct you. Fuck me, right?

We are odd creatures. Even under optimum circumstances, we're apt to misunderstand one another. It's inevitable even with precise language. The next time someone commits a tiny grammatical misdemeanor, let it go. But the next time you're in doctor's office after breaking your leg, feel free to double check whether she "proscribed" or "prescribed" physical activity. It's in the spirit of the game. Plus, you might hurt yourself. Otherwise, don't be a dick.  

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