October 08, 2007

Shooting down "amateur grammar nazis"

Today's xkcd, "Effect an effect":

Presumably the point is that there really is a verb effect, for which the OED's first gloss is

1. a. trans. To bring about (an event, a result); to accomplish (an intention, a desire).
    b. To produce (a state or condition). Obs.

The origin and progress of this nexus of confusion were described in an old LL post, "Opening for a copy editor at the Associated Press" (12/13/2004).

Randall Munroe's image title text is "Time to paint another grammarian silhouette on the side of the desktop", which I guess is a reference to the practice of painting symbols on the fuselage of fighter planes to record kills of enemy aircraft:

But it's a vulgar error to call ill-informed usage cranks "grammarians".

[Update -- Cathy Prasad asks:

Is the point that if you are busy tripping up the grammar Nazis that spelling Nazis don't catch you? Am I the only one who noticed foriegn?

Good question. I'll beg off, on the grounds that I've already tagged myself as the world's worst proofreader. So far, no one seems to have mentioned it on the xkcd blag, but that might be because there's no entry yet about today's comic. Perhaps the misspelling was cleverly crafted, the bleating of the apparently-careless kid to attract the usage-crank tiger, so to speak. Then again, maybe it was just a misspelling -- Hartman's Law in action. Randall?]

Posted by Mark Liberman at October 8, 2007 07:20 AM