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Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite Paperback – March 28, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hoping to make grammar both accessible and amusing, Casagrande offers practical and entertaining lessons on common uses and unfortunate abuses of the English language. The author, a southern California newspaper columnist, memorably delineates "who" and "whom"; "can" and "may"; "affect" and "effect"; and provides pithy primers on the perennially problematic dark alleys of language (subjunctives, how to use punctuation marks around quoted material, possessive gerunds). In brief, cleverly titled sections, she addresses a slew of grammar and punctuation questions: "To Boldly Blow" examines the issue of split infinitives, "Snobbery Up With Which You Should Not Put" tackles prepositions and "Is That a Dangler in Your Memo or Are You Just Glad to See Me?" pokes fun at dangling modifiers and the confusion they create. By also touching on e-mail and text messaging, where traditional rules are commonly ignored, Casagrande keeps the discussion current. She maintains her sass and her sense of humor throughout, at one point calling the hyphen "a nasty, tricky, evil little mark that gets its kicks igniting arguments...the Bill Maher of punctuation." Readers intimidated by style manuals and Lynne Truss will enjoy this populist grammar reference.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The author of a grammar column for L.A. community newspapers, Casagrande brings a lively approach to her overview of basic grammar. Sensing that people are intimidated by grammar, she uses humor to promote her down-to-earth approach to the topic, labeling grammatical purists as snobs and bullies. In short, pithily titled chapters, she addresses common grammar problems, pointing out, for example, the distinction between who and whom in "For Whom the Snob Trolls," explaining the split infinitive in "To Boldly Blow," and discussing prepositions at the end of sentences in "Snobbery Up with Which You Should Not Put." She is most helpful when addressing the language shortcuts taken in text messaging and e-mail, topics that have not yet been fully addressed in traditional style manuals. Speaking of which, she gets in her fair share of jabs at The Chicago Manual of Style in the particularly funny chapter "The Kids Are All Wrong," devoted to rock-music-related language issues. Both sassy and edifying, Casagrande's little tome will be especially useful to those in search of basic grammar instruction. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2/26/06 edition (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If people weren't routinely excoriated, sniped at, or prissily corrected because of slip-ups in grammar, there wouldn't be a need for a book like this. June Casagrande is to be commended for coming up with a fresh approach and finding a multitude of ways to be humorous about language rules. She aimed the book toward the masses of people who are intimidated by language geeks.

I don't think she ever intended the book to be viewed as the 'gold standard' on the subject, and she often quotes from the accepted authorities, so that people who want to learn even more about the subject know where they can look.

There definitely are better guidebooks on the topic. This book is not organized in a way that makes it easy to flip through, to find quick answers to common questions. But it has merit as a casual approach to an admittedly stiff subject. You could call it "grammar for people who don't suck all the air out of a room." What a novel idea.
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Format: Paperback
I really wanted to like this book. The premise is certainly true: grammar snobs often are bullies and often are faking it, so ammunition to fight them is a good thing to have.

The only good strategy for fighting the grammar snobs is to know more than they do. Unfortunately, June Casagrande is not equipped for this. The book is rife with errors. These can be as basic as problems identifying parts of speech. Her discussion of the infinitive is completely botched, her discussion of the subjunctive comes across as an explanation by someone who barely understands the subject, and so on.

There are problems with even understanding what the issues are. Casagrande makes no distinction between questions of grammar and questions of style. Style manuals exist to bring consistency to a publication's look. It is completely arbitrary whether we write "the 1980s" or "the 1980's" but a publication looks better if it picks one and sticks with it. But this doesn't imply that one version is right and another wrong in any general sense. So if someone criticizes your choice, the correct response is not that even the "experts" disagree. It is that there are various legitimate styles to choose from.

On questions that really are of grammar, and not merely style, Casagrande completely abandons the good fight. There are innumerable issues where the grammar snobs make questionable assertions. For example, the claim that "which" cannot be used as the relative pronoun in a restrictive clause. This rule was a flat-out invention that got adopted in American style manuals, gradually infiltrating its way into the collective consciousness as a rule of grammar. This is complete nonsense.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not an English major or teacher, but an engineer who occasionally writes technical and marketing literature. Although I've always had a keen grasp of tricky English rules and exceptions, at times I still fumble with such details as "which" vs. "that" and "three" vs. "3". I thought this book was hilarious and a fun way to learn the tricky rules. I usually have a very short attention span when reading any type of rule book. However, June's short and humorous chapters made this book easy to read. Besides the definite grammar rules, the best thing I got from this book is learning that, in many cases, there are no definite rules. The major sources of English reference disagree with each other, and the rules change over time. This quickly put my mind at ease as I often thought I was going crazy when reading different writing styles. I highly recommend this book for anyone who does any kind of writing for a living.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased this book based on the recommendation of someone at the same time I purchased Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves several months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I identified with the author's concern for the laxness and the lowering of standards for using grammar and punctuation correctly. The book was not only a great refresher, but I learned several new things.

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite, although marginally funny in places, is primarily a direct attack on people who use grammar correctly and hold the rest of us accountable to do the same, specifically Truss and other named grammarians. The author, June Casagrande, strove to arm her readers with ammunition to repel snide remarks from grammar snobs; those people who are constantly correcting or looking down their noses at others who use incorrect grammar. Although the title of the book should have given me a clue (duh!), I did not want or need that kind of ammunition.

For the most part, I did not find this book helpful. There was almost an "anything goes" attitude toward grammar or what one can "get away with" when dealing with a grammar snob. I much prefer knowing what is and is not correct and when there is a choice or the rules are silent, what is the preferable usage. I came away from reading this book unenlightened.

Perhaps all of this makes me a grammar snob or a grammar-snob wannabe, but then so be it. As Lynne Truss wrote, "Sticklers unite!"

I stand with her.
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