On Grammar and Pretension

I just don’t trust people who are into “proper grammar” and “correct punctuation." What lies just beyond that brand of smug superiority is sinister classism that gets acutely racist in a red hot minute. So, for similar reasons, I’m instantly wary of anyone who takes great pride in their love of “logic” and “intellect." It's a dark part of pretension that I used to feed constantly. 

I’m kind of a jerk. I won’t drink PBR because I think it tastes like an armpit, which results in me buying exclusively microbrews at bars--even dive bars with four terrible domestic beers and one Sierra Nevada on tap. I’ll buy that Sierra Nevada even though I hate Sierra Nevada no matter what it costs, whether I can afford it or not, to avoid the taste of a PBR. Just because I hate one thing a little less than another. That’s pretentious.

I like living in the North End because I feel more comfortable in my little pocket of Boise, as opposed to settling in the suburbs among the sprawl. I get anxious driving out to Meridian because I know I won’t be able to find a local coffee shop. That’s pretentious. 

I buy $5 half gallons of organic milk from a local dairy farm that lets you come pet their cows. That’s probably the most pretentious thing I do.

I could go on, but you get the point.

However, I'm not the kind of jerk who determines that the quality of a person's thoughts stems from your ability to communicate them using elitist systems like grammar and punctuation. And, believe me, I used to be that jerk.

In college, I was the ultimate champion of grammar advocates. I used to strain my eyes late at night over my classmates’ workshop stories, aching to catch the next comma splice or misspelling of the word “weird.” People hated me. They referred to me as the “grammar nazi.” Of course, I pointed out how problematic it was to use the word “nazi” in such casual ways (can we not belittle the experience of six million people who suffered terrible deaths and the others who barely escaped with their lives?), and the cycle of pretension continued.

I digress: people who pick apart the grammar of others who want to be included in conversation but might not have the educational tools to articulate fluently and perfectly . . . just suck. I sucked. It took a while for me to realize that not all people are privileged enough to enter an educational system that teaches proper grammar (often due to systems of institutionalized racism and classism like redlining). Eventually, I learned that good ideas and thoughts come from people without formal education and I became a better person.

Those who can't articulate with perfect precision still have good ideas worthy of consideration. Just because I'm a trained writer doesn't give me the authority to dismiss a person's worthwhile ideas if they aren't written to my standards.

Pretentious, to me, is not a permanent state of being. It’s my ability to admit my many flaws and problems because I’m growing and changing and blinking my eyes and waking up every morning with the purpose of getting better. There are some pretentious jerks out there who aren’t going to recognize their problems, and they’ll be stuck in the same rut of falsified intellectual superiority for the rest of their lives until everyone becomes sick of their smug sense of self and bails. That's real toxicity.