Confessions of a High School Grammar Nerd
Some of you may find this difficult to believe, but I am secretly a grammar nerd. What did you say? That me being a grammar nerd is a worse-kept secret than Freddie Mercury being gay? His band was called Queen, for crying out loud. Fair enough, but if comprehending the distinction between the nominative and the objective case is wrong, I don’t want to be right. And trust me, I’m usually right, at least grammatically speaking.
But I no longer have to be ashamed of my nerddom. In fact, I relish in it. Just the other day, a former student who shall remain nameless in order to protect the innocent (actually, he’s guilty as hell), sent me a grammar joke. Yes, there are such things as grammar jokes, and we as grammar nerds laugh at them. The joke went something like this, “A comma splice walks into a bar, it buys a drink and leaves.” Now as you read this joke, you could be having one of four reactions. Some of you will shake your head in contempt at the bad pun that wasted moments of your life that you will not get back. Others will have a minor epiphany, “Oh, that’s what a stupid comma splice is. I never did get that” (though, in actuality, you really just never gave a crap). Still others will wonder which part of the sentence had a comma in the first place. Finally, there are three of you sitting at home teetering just a little as you copy and paste that humorous nugget into a hastily constructed email to your friend in graduate school. To the three of you, I salute you, my fellow nerd brethren. Now get out your parents’ basement and go on a date or something.
But that’s just it, nerds are going on plenty of dates these days. Why? Suddenly, it’s cool to be a nerd. Or as Huey Lewis once sang, “It’s hip to be square.” (although bringing back that line in a column is anything but hip). Nerds have surfaced from out of unlit basements everywhere, like hobbits loosed from their holes within the Shire, free to once again roam the Earth by day without fear of falling victim to the slings and arrows of the A’holes that have tormented them with taunts and wedgies since Miles Davis first defined what “cool” truly means.
I, for one, am grateful for the change. Whether it be Mac Lovin, the cast of The Big Bang Theory, or Stephen Colbert, nerds are coming out of their nerd closets and abandoning the shame that goes along with it. Free from the pressure to conform to a false societal standard that once suggested apathy and disdain for anything remotely intelligent or academic in order that the intellectually inferior could repose in the safety of their superiority of “coolness” (itself an undefined and ever-changing foray into complete and utter bullshit), nerds are now able to embrace their passions for things like comic books, the English language, and soft-core anime porn (hey, even nerds can be pervs). In other words, we can wear our Millennium Falcon t-shirts (yes, I actually own one) without getting our asses kicked.
Yes, high school cafeterias are a far different place than back when I was a kid. Back then, a nerd knew his place, and mine was eating alone with my other Dungeons and Dragons friends, all with our 20-sided dies held deep within our pockets. But today no longer. Nerds are the new cool as we shift towards a culture that welcomes individual quirkiness with open arms, a culture that dare I say has become more tolerant.
Take for example, the gay movement that has exploded since the 1990’s. It was only twenty years ago that the homosexual community was publicly shamed into the dark fringes of society, only coming out for the occasional gay pride parade. Few suspected how many gay individuals there truly were out there, but something happened, and our cultural values shifted. We became more accepting, and now I kind of feel unhip living my straight heterosexual existence. Being gay just seems so much more fun and cool now that Ellen has her own tv show!
Is it any coincidence that right around the same time we began to accept homosexuality we started to celebrate nerds as well? You can bash modern society all you like, and gosh knows I’ll jump right on board for much of it (look forward to my upcoming column on how hover boards signal the inevitable demise of our society), but haven’t we also become more tolerant in the modern era? We have come to see that embracing someone else’s self-identification does not have to raise questions about our own, that they can have their thing, and we can have our thing, and hey, the world keeps right on spinning.
So who cares if I like to diagram sentences in my spare time, just waiting for the opportunity to suggest that “spinning” in the last sentence was was a gerund serving as the object of the preposition “on”? Screw you, if you don’t like it. Me and my three grammar buddies are doing just fine here on our own, thank you very much. We don’t need your approval to know we’re cool. Or at least so we keep on telling ourselves….
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com