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What does Nazi have anything in common with those obsessively correcting other people's grammar? What is the origin of this expression?

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I assume they did not correct anyone's grammar. That's humorous expression. –  Olga S. Aug 31 '12 at 10:39
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Regardless of its orgin, it's an abominable term, which displays both historical insensitivity and linguistic illiteracy. (Those who call themselves 'grammar Nazis' are insensitive. Their approach to language also shows they know little about it.) –  Barrie England Aug 31 '12 at 10:40
    
See opinions about its usage at meta.ELU and political correctness –  Mitch Aug 31 '12 at 13:25

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

A grammar Nazi is someone who corrects another's grammar in a way the accused feels is overly harsh. From the OED:

Nazi n. 2.b. hyperbolically. A person who is perceived to be authoritarian, autocratic, or inflexible; one who seeks to impose his or her views upon others. Usu. derogatory.

Their first citation is for Safety Nazis by P. J. O'Rourke in Inquiry from 1982:

The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods.

The earliest example of grammar Nazi I found was in Usenet group comp.sys.apple2 in January 1991, by "The Unknown User" correcting another's spelling:

Ok, I posted a message on this subject earlier with sort of a "rediculous"

ridiculous. I'm a card carrying member of the Spelling and Grammar Nazis of America.

As Barrie England commented:

Regardless of its orgin, it's an abominable term, which displays both historical insensitivity and linguistic illiteracy.

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Though it may be abominable and an epithet, it is not considered taboo, at least in AmE. For one, it is not proscribed on television. Calling someone an 'asshole' for requiring a form to be filled out again because of a single misspelling may be just as accurate as calling them a 'Nazi', but you could say the latter in front of your mom, but not the former. –  Mitch Aug 31 '12 at 13:03
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@Mitch: That's because Americans didn't experience, and thus have no folk memory of, what happened in Europe in the mid-twentieth century. –  Barrie England Aug 31 '12 at 15:41
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@BarrieEngland I understand the cultural difference. But for the linguistic one, are you saying that referring to someone as an X-nazi has the same word-taboo or vulgarity status in BrE as say 'fuck', 'shit', 'twat'. The word 'Nazi' is a commonly used historical word, so would be difficult to become taboo. (I am pointing out the difference between something like 'that person had sex with their mother' a very disturbing claim but the words aren't taboo, as opposed to 'that person is a mother-fucker' which has everything bad with it. –  Mitch Aug 31 '12 at 15:51
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@Mitch: 'Fuck', 'shit' and 'twat' are frequently heard in the UK, but 'mother-fucker' seems to be a predominantly American expression. You don't much hear 'Nazi' in any context here, but to use it lightly is to trivialise a movement behind one of the most shameful events in European history. –  Barrie England Aug 31 '12 at 16:02

While I'm not aware of the exact origin (though I suspect Usenet) you should be aware "grammar nazi" while probably most popular, is not the only kind of "X nazi" on the Internet. "Fashion nazi", "Vegan nazi", "Fitness nazi" are all names for people who are obsessively critical about people "violating the rules", including throwing a fit, calling names, and essentially blowing any "violation" far out of proportions.

This is a stronger derivative of "X Police" - e.g, "Fashion Police" - another humorous derogatory term claiming too high interest in "keeping others in line" in given domain they may not care about.

This probably relates to Nazis tending to kill people in occupied for small misdemeanors with impunity - Jews in ghettos could die for unlicensed trade, singing forbidden songs, or staying outside past curfew. So, a person who blows a misdemeanor out of proportions may be compared to a Nazi.

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Do not forget the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld as an example from popular culture. A non-practicing Jewish character describes a soup vendor using the "X nazi" nomenclature. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Soup_Nazi –  Zoot Aug 31 '12 at 14:45

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