“Grammar Nazis never sleep”: Facebook humor and the management of standard written language
This paper uses Language Management Theory (Nekvapil and Sherman, Language management in contact situations. Perspectives from three continents. Peter Lang, Frankfurt/Main, 2009) to investigate Facebook pages as a site and instrument of behavior-toward-language, focusing specifically on the use of humor. The language in question is Czech, which is not the subject of extensive formal language policy. We show how standard written Czech is promoted on the micro level of everyday humorous interactions on Facebook, specifically those which correspond to the superiority theory of humor (Billig, Laughter and ridicule: towards a social critique of humour. Sage, London, 2005). We examine two pages which declare their affiliation with the idea of “Grammar Nazis”. These pages were created in order to support the noting and evaluation of deviations from standard written Czech for humorous purposes, primarily through collections of individual mistakes found in both online and offline communication. A qualitative analysis of 550 posts from these two pages investigated (a) the linguistic phenomena which were managed, (b) the actors, settings and genres which were the sources of the noted deviations, (c) the humorous character of the management and (d) the depiction of the actors in organized management in regard to the “Nazi” metaphor and perceived norm authorities in the Czech context. The analysis revealed that the practices of individuals organizing under the title Grammar Nazis on Czech Facebook represent a necessarily incomplete language management process cycle, performed by non-experts, driven by standard language ideology, and associating “grammar” primarily with orthography. Given that the knowledge of orthography is related to one’s education and cultural capital, it thus serves as an instrument of social differentiation.
KeywordsGrammar Nazis Facebook Czech Language management Online humor Orthography
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Ackerman, A. (1995). Seinfeld S07E06: The Soup Nazi. New York: NBC.Google Scholar
- Androutsopoulos, J. (2013). Participatory culture and metalinguistic discourse: Performing and negotiating German dialects on YouTube. In D. Tannen & A. M. Trester (Eds.) Discourse 2.0. language and new media (pp. 47–71). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
- Bergson, H. (2008). Laughter: An essay on the meaning of the comic. (C. Brereton & F. Rothwell, Trans.). [United States]: Wildside Press.Google Scholar
- Bermel, N. (2007). Linguistic authority, language ideology, and metaphor: The Czech orthography wars. Berlin: De Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and ridicule: Towards a social critique of humour. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Blommaert, J. (2013). Policy, policing and the ecology of social norms: Ethnographic monitoring revisited. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 219, 123–140.Google Scholar
- Česká televize [Czech Television]. (2003). Kodex České televize, čl. 9 [Czech Television Codex, article 9]. http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/vse-o-ct/kodex-ct/cl-9-jazykovy-projev/. Accessed 9 Feb 2014.
- Dovalil, V. (2013). Jazykové právo—konceptuální perspektivy a metodologie jeho zkoumání [Language law—conceptual perspectives and research methodology]. In H. Gladkova & K. Vačkova (Eds.), Jazykové právo a slovanské jazyky (pp. 13–30). Prague: Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy.Google Scholar
- Freud, S. (1963). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Kimura, G. C. (2014). Language management as a cyclical process. A case study on prohibiting Sorbian in the workplace. Slovo a slovesnost, 75(4), 255–270.Google Scholar
- Know Your Meme. (2012). Know Your Meme: Grammar Nazi. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ grammar-nazi. Accessed 13 Sept 2013.
- Koestler, A. (1989). The act of creation. London: Arkana [The Penguin Group].Google Scholar
- Kolektiv pracovníků Ústavu pro jazyk český Akademie věd České Republiky. (2005). Pravidla českého pravopisu [The rules of Czech orthography]. Prague: Akademie.Google Scholar
- Lenihan, A. (2014). Investigating language policy in social media: translation practices on Facebook. In P. Seargeant & C. Tagg (Eds.), The language of social media: Community and identity on the internet (pp. 208–227). London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Milroy, J., & Milroy, L. (2012). Authority in language: Investigating standard English (4th ed.). London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Morreall, J. (2009). Comic relief: A comprehensive philosophy of humor. Malden, MA: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Mulkay, M. (1988). On humor: Its nature and its place in modern society. Cambridge, New York: Polity Press; Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Nekvapil, J., & Sherman, T. (Eds.). (2009). Language management in contact situations. Perspectives from three continents. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Savlov, M. (1995). Grammar Nazi on the Rampage! (discussion thread). UseNet—alt.gothic (retrieved from Google Groups). https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt.gothic/-bWaS18rNqg/smRd8VEUQb4J. Accessed 13 Sept 2013.
- Týden.cz. (2008). “Co se událo v roce 2008 na Internetu.” http://www.tyden.cz/rubriky/media/internet/ co-se-udalo-v-roce-2008-na-internetu_97607.html#.Uzdwv_l_tMc. Accessed 27 March 2014.
- Wagner, M. (2011). Luxembourgish on Facebook: Language ideologies and discourse types on group pages. In R. Sánchez Prieto (Ed.), Minority languages and the social web (pp. 39–52). Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Zillien, N., & Hargittai, E. (2009). Digital distinction: Status-specific types of internet usage. Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), 90(2), 274–291. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2009.00617.x