Ah, there can be no more promising start to an article than a reference to the Insult Comic Dog. This blog is both hilarious and timely!
Anyway, to business.
If there’s one thing my years as an SAT/ACT grammar tutor taught me, it’s that the English language has a lot of rules. If there’s a second thing it taught me, it’s that I knew precisely none of them. Thanks to a nifty phenomenon called Universal Grammar, I had been able to understand and use proper English without ever explicitly learning how. Consequently, my first day teaching was spent alternately mumbling: “So that’s what a participle is!” and refusing repeated requests for refunds.
Kid, if your parents are rich enough to pay for a private tutor, they’re rich enough to pay me to fart around on grammar.com for forty-five minutes.
I know English grammar inside and out now, of course. Four years spent drilling kids in preparation for a bullsh*t standardized test will do that to a person. But as I picked up the rules, I happened to pick up something else: the realization that some of what we’re taught in English class is absolute crap that can and should be ignored. For example…
1. “Don’t end a sentence in a preposition.”
We can blame Latin for this one. Once upon a time, English had a perfectly functional native grammar that allowed speakers to use terminal prepositions with impunity. Then a bunch of jumped-up Classicists got a hold of it, furrowed their brows and declared: “Nah, bruh. Latin.“
You love the Classical period so much, why don’t you, uh…do whatever the hell it is they’re doing in this picture? (from english-heritage.org.uk)
But Latin is not English and never will be. For starters, English is a Germanic language, not a Latin/Romance one. Furthermore, the practice of grafting Latin rules onto an English framework was based in the misguided belief that Latin was pure–at least, purer than whatever mouth-farts the Anglo-Saxons had been lobbing at each other. You can see why that’s an arbitrary and chauvinistic justification.
2. “Don’t split your infinitives.”
Darling, I love you, but I will throw down over this one. (from uproxx.com)
This one also comes to us courtesy of the Classicists, who never met a Latin rule they wouldn’t take to bed and press against their clammy loins. The most famous example of a split infinitive occurs in the opening narration of Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
“Actually,” the fussy prescriptive grammarian pipes up, “it should be: ‘Boldly to go,’ or ‘To go boldly!'” To which I respond: “Boldly go on this!” while extending my middle finger. Everybody laughs and high-fives me. I am finally popular.