Let’s go a-linguisting with Weird Al’s “Word Crimes”…
The Weird Al “Word Crimes” video is certainly fun, but I urge caution against taking any of it seriously. While the “advice” in the video seems to appeal to self-confessed “grammar wonks”, most linguists consider these peeves useless at best—historically and factually incorrect ideas about writing/speaking that good writers and most speakers have been ignoring for centuries—but at worst this kind of ideology disenfranchises those people who come from a linguistic background at a remove from that of the Privileged Class.
The video and ideology has been discussed on Language Log, here: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=13455
And my colleague Lauren Squires (at Ohio State) has a fantastic essay “from a linguist’s point of view” here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s2gva1
You should all go check out Professor Squires’s essay in full, but here’s a highlight:
"a little rumination on Weird Al’s violent reactions against "bad grammar" raises deep and longstanding questions of social equity regarding class, education, race, age, ethnicity, gender, and how these relate to languages, dialects, and social registers. … the notion of "Proper English" typically serves to prop up the already-privileged speakers whose native language variety it is (sort of) based on. This puts speakers whose native language variety does not approximate "Proper English" at an immediate disadvantage in society, the same way that privileging Whiteness puts those who are not White at an immediate disadvantage in society. It is not the linguistic differences themselves that do this (just as it is not the racial/ethnic difference themselves that determine privilege), but the *attitudes* about them. This is why many linguists are having a hard time laughing with Word Crimes: to do so feels like complicity in an ongoing project of linguistic discrimination that intersects with class, race, and other kinds of discrimination."
Alternatively, Professor Squires also has a great list of 25 Questions that should go with it— questions that encourage us to think about “standard writing rules” as the arbitrary things they are and remind us that “what’s expected” doesn’t have to be presented as disempowering for people from communities that don’t regularly use “Standard English”.
25 Question can be found here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s2gva8