Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Getting out of touch with my inner Grammar Snob

First off, as I pop another Junior Mint in my mouth, I'd like to thank the people at Junior Mints for finally explaining the name of their candy right there on the box, even though their explanation doesn't, technically, make sense:
Over Fifty years ago, a new "Star" was born. Given Junior Mints' popularity at the movies it comes as no surprise that the brand was named after a top Broadway play in 1949: "Junior Miss"!
I'll note only that I'm not sure why the fact that the candy is popular at the movies has anything to do with the fact that it was named after a Broadway play. If movies hadn't existed in 1949, maybe I'd be ready to make the cross-cultural leap. Or if they had referenced the candy's popularity at "the theater", I'd be with them.

Regardless, that's the only point I'll make about this particular piece of copy writing, and so I'll refrain from pointing out the random capitalizations, odd use of quotation marks and dubious exclamation point. That's because I'm trying - really trying - to avoid being pigeon-holed as a Grammar Snob.

Back here in 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, I conducted an interview this morning with one June Casagrande, author of the very funny "Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies", which takes to task people who derive an unnatural amount of pleasure from catching the grammar mistakes of others.

I was a little concerned as I began reading her 194-page screed. First, I find myself using words like "screed" that no normal, Vanilla Coke-drinking person would work into casual speech. (Second, I drink Vanilla Coke.) And I have a long history of nailing people for errors in print.

My first college, for instance, asked me to remove myself, Felix Unger-like, from my place of residence (college, that is), ostensibly because my GPA couldn't be spotted with an electron microscope, but really because - as managing editor of the campus newspaper - I spent hours (and hours) finding every conceivable error. And then printing out the correction, cutting it out, coating it with hot wax, hunting for where I dropped it on the floor, finding it again, and sticking it on the galley. Needless to say, this left me with little time for what some people liked to call "classes".

A year-and-a-half and two colleges later, the editor-in-chief asked me to stop helping out at her paper, because I was spotting too many mistakes.

"We're not trying to be a Nobel Prize-winning newspaper," she said.

"You mean a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper," I replied.

"I think you should leave," she concluded.
Around the same time, I found a typo on the beautifully caligraphed marriage license my aunt and uncle had commissioned for their wedding. Even I cringed a little when I pointed that out.

And more recently, regular readers of this fine feature (or fine readers of this regular feature) will recall that I took the late Fred Rogers to task for naming his program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood", rather than "Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood", which "The Elements of Style" dictates.

As June Casagrande pointed out in her interview this morning, Mr. Rogers may well have been following the AP Stylebook when he named his program, so I hereby retract my complaint, and will continue to (try to) relinquish most of my worst Grammar Snob impulses.

I will, however, continue to wonder where Mr. Rogers was coming from at the beginning of his show, and where he was going at the end.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant post...from one grammar snob to another!!!

So, any theories on why Vanilla Coke was taken off of the market and slyly reintroduced with black cherry added?

Mitch Teich said...

Apparently, the soda industry has determined that American consumers like as many tastes as possible in their carbonated beverages - e.g., "Berries & Cream Dr Pepper". My theory as to why this has transpired is that the generation of people running the soda industry grew up, like me, drinking something called a "suicide", which involved depositing a little of every type of soda from the fountain in one cup. But they know that the current generation of soda drinkers consists of slackers so lazy that they'd rather have their suicides pre-mixed.

Or something.