Grammando: “One who constantly corrects others’ linguistic mistakes.” Neologism coined by Lizzie Skurnick from grammar and commando. First appeared in the March 4, 2012, issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, under the heading “That Should Be a Word.” In a blog entry published on the same date, Skurnick explains why she coined the word: “Because I have always HATED the term ‘Grammar Nazi,’ as it makes NO SENSE, unless Jew-killing means an adherence to precision.” (Skurnick’s use-it-in-a-sentence example isn’t exactly precise, either: “Cowed by his grammando wife, Arthur finally ceased saying ‘irregardless.’” As linguist Arnold Zwicky points out, “As usual the exemplary grammando’s complaint is not actually about grammar, but about word choice. What the hell, It’s All Grammar, right?”)
I’d read about grammando three years ago, then promptly forgot about it until last month, when Anne Curzan, an English professor at the University of Michigan, used it in a talk she gave at the American Linguistic Society meeting in Portland. She prefers it to “grammar Nazi,” she said. Curzan was an early adopter of grammando, mentioning it during a July 2012 episode of “That’s What They Say,” a Michigan Public Radio program about language. Grammando evokes the ambush tactics of militant language cranks—the people John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun has dubbed the peeververein—without resorting to images of swastikas and concentration camps.
Curzan admires grammando but is less approving of grammandizing. “It’s a real power play to suddenly talk about the way somebody is writing or talking as opposed to what they’re saying,” she told Michigan Public Radio:
So if you catch someone’s grammatical mistake, should you point it out? Curzan says it depends on why you are correcting the person.
According to Curzan, some people are sticklers about grammar because they feel like it’s a part of professional training.
“If that’s the reason, I think that’s a legitimate reason, but I wouldn’t stop them in the middle of talking. That’s very disruptive,” Curzan said.
Unsurprisingly, the comments on that MPR article are, with one exception, in the peevish-grammar-stickler vein
A grammando currently making headlines is Bryan Henderson, a 51-year-old American software engineer on a mission: to rid Wikipedia of every instance of “comprised of.” (To comprise means to contain or include; standard usage insists on composed of or consists of.) To date, he’s removed 47,000 offenses. In a 6,000-word essay published on his Wikipedia user page, Henderson reminds readers that “the whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole” and argues that comprised of is “completely unnecessary,” “illogical,” etymologically unfounded, imprecise, and “new”: “It was barely ever used before 1970,” Henderson writes. Of course, neither were many other words, including quite a few from the vocabulary of technology: app, flash drive, and voicemail, to name but a few.