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I'm not a native English speaker and I'm puzzled where the use of grammar nazi would be appropriate.

I have seen it numerous times around the SE network and was wondering when the use would be appropriate and whether it is likely that someone might get offended.

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Related meta questions: “Grammar Nazis”, What is the opposite of Grammar Nazi? –  RegDwigнt Apr 20 '11 at 18:38
    
@RegDwight: Thanks, The accepted answer to the first questions gives an interesting point of view. –  Trufa Apr 20 '11 at 18:41
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It seems hardly right not to link to this video –  F'x Apr 20 '11 at 18:49
    
Another alternative is David Foster Wallace's SNOOT. –  Callithumpian Apr 21 '11 at 0:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 16 down vote accepted

For whatever reason, x Nazi is not as offensive as you'd expect in the US. There was a recurring character on Seinfeld known as the "soup Nazi" and nobody got bent out of shape.

That said, substituting the phrase "The Grammar Police" doesn't even put you at risk and may be more accurate (since the complaint is that the person is officiously interfering in the affairs of others, not that he or she is a racist genocidal maniac).

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I don'r really like "The Grammar Police", it sounds goofy, but clearly it's use is quite spread. –  Trufa Apr 20 '11 at 18:57
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@Trufa - Your dislike of The Grammar Police is nothing compared to mine of the apostrophe in its ! -- The Spelling Police –  Malvolio Apr 20 '11 at 19:01
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fair enough you grammar nazi! –  Trufa Apr 20 '11 at 21:02
    
I feel grammar nazi funny rather than offensive. –  Jim Thio Sep 17 '12 at 2:36

As everyone else has said, the use of "X Nazi" (soup Nazi, grammar Nazi, etc.) is surprisingly common in the US. However, I once met a person who got very upset at the use of such a term, saying that it made light of the experience of anyone in the Holocaust by trivializing the use of the term Nazi. Since then, I have personally steered clear of its use. So take it for what it's worth.

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I agree entirely with the view you heard expressed. Those who use the term lightly can know nothing of what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. –  Barrie England Jan 2 '12 at 17:09
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@BarrieEngland With all due respect, there are those who would assert that the only way to properly treat the Nazis is to deny them the dignity of respect for their name not by avoiding using it, but instead to use it freely for anything even vaguely negative; to make a mockery of the Nazis by turning their name into a joke. –  nohat Sep 15 '12 at 19:24
    
I agree with you. I'm German-speaking (although not from Germany) and I'd like to stay clear of this term as well, when I'm not specifically targeting English-speakers. What would be an equivalent term with a similar semantics (funny, slightly reproachful, but not really offensive)? I actually asked this as a question here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/202954/… –  Lukas Eder Oct 17 at 9:45

I'm not a regular here, but I would say that pretty much it's never really politically correct, especially to call someone else one. "Nazi" is a pretty strong word with bad connotations.

That said, I do call myself a "grammar nazi" a lot, so what do I know?

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Thank you for your perspective, it is true that when you say it to yourself, it is more difficult to offend someone (by only using the word "Nazi"). –  Trufa Apr 20 '11 at 18:55

Any time you refer to another person as "he or she is a .." (fill in whatever) you are labeling them. It is a hostile act and you are indicating that there is something wrong with them that they can't change, rather than referring to something that they did and that you disagree with. It is a form of name-calling, what positive can come out of that?

In addition, I believe that the word itself is offensive to people of German origin. Apparently, in English-speaking countries kids are taught that "all Germans are nazis", and Germans who were born after World War II think it is not fair to be held responsible for something that happened before they were born.

If you feel that somebody is overly obsessive about grammar, why not just say that, instead of name-calling?

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In what English-speaking country are children taught that German people are Nazis? –  Brian S Oct 20 at 16:11
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I think this is a deliberate parody, but I'm not sure. –  Malvolio Oct 21 at 12:38

Although the word is in fairly common use, I would hesitate to call anyone a grammar nazi, just the same as I would avoid calling them any other negative term. I don't think that there is any particular negative connotation with the term, but it certainly is not a positive word. By calling someone a grammarian you are more likely to flatter than offend them. Feel free to use it with regard to yourself, though.

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While this may be true, I don't want to flatter the one who "deserves" grammar Nazi, rather, joke about the his "obsessive" behavior. –  Trufa Apr 20 '11 at 21:05

It isn't so much politically correct as it isn't really considered incorrect. Nazis are generally a non-topic in the US; if you want something offensive you need to use particular examples (e.g. Hilter) or specifically refer to The Nazis.

That being said, some variations have their own offensiveness attached (e.g. feminazi) but my hunch is that this has more to do with the usage of the term than the inclusion of "-nazi."

The internet tends to care less about political correctness and the phrase "grammar nazi" is more common when you can pick apart the spellings of there/their/they're and your/you're. I advise against using it in person until you hear someone else use it.

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