David Foster Wallace on SNOOTs



Gert is something of a grammar Nazi so she laughed quite a lot when she read the brilliant David Foster Wallace outing himself as a SNOOT (Syntax Nudniks Of Our Time)

We combine a missionary zeal and a near-neural faith in our beliefs’ importance with a curmudgeonly hell-in-a-handbasket despair at the way English is routinely defiled by supposedly literate adults…a fellow SNOOT I know likes to say that listening to most people’s English feels like watching someone use a Stradivarius to pound nails. We are the Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else.

Consider the Lobster (Abacus Press 2005) p. 71


Image: http://www.oldbookillustrations.com/pages/man-reading-mail.php?ing=en


15 thoughts on “David Foster Wallace on SNOOTs

  1. Well, Snoot, here’s a question for you – does ‘none’ take a singular or a plural verb? My proof-reader changed the verbs I had after ‘none’ in my latest manuscript, obliging me into a period of unwelcome grammatical research.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I played around with it a bit and came to the conclusion that it could be either. “None of the work was done” but “none of the teachers are any good”. Now I want to know whether you are a singular or plural girl.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I fainted quite away after reading about the Stradivarius being used to … to …

    I can’t bring myself to even say it.

    PS. Hell in a handbasket? A new usage to me: I’ve always seen ‘handcart’ as the operative word.

    PPS. I like to imagine where all those inverted commas collected by the Bristol grammar vigilante end up. Comma ground? A Possessives Protectorate? A Dogmatics Home for Strays? An Ezra Memorial Pound?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Handbasket is what I’d say, though, come to think of it, what on earth is a handbasket?
      I’m afraid the inverted commas, once liberated, fly away into the air and hover there ready to do their mischief again. The poor man is like Sisyphus.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. If hyou go out on a dark night and look up into the sky you’ll see them flying around. Someones they even get caught in your hair and if you don’t shake them out they burrow into your brain and infect your writing.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. With regard to your question, I am a singular girl, though I concede that the plural is correct in your example. And with regard to newspaper errors, in Australia anyway, most of the sub editors were sacked long ago and there is no one to proof-read journalists’ copy.


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