55

I'm not a native English speaker, but I do understand and personally appreciate the use of the term "xyz Nazi" to say that someone is a bit dogmatic about their point of view, without necessarily offending them. A related question here on SE is:

Is "grammar nazi" politically correct?

But most often, my writing doesn't address only English speakers, but also others. Being a native German speaker (although not from Germany), I'm a bit more sensitive to how this might be received with my every day audience.

What would be an equivalent term with a similar semantics (funny, slightly reproachful, but not really offensive)?

  • 37
    The Grammar Police is a mass noun that's used sometimes slightly reproachfully... – Araucaria Oct 17 '14 at 9:56
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    @JoeBlow: How I understand it, "xyz Fanatic" is someone who's enthusiast about, but a "xyz Nazi" would be someone who insists on things being done this or that way... – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 10:54
  • 15
    Anyone who makes such flippant use of the word 'Nazi' should I suggest, read Edward Russell's *The Scourge of the Swastika'. Lord Russell was a British war-crimes prosecutor at Nuremberg. Prepare for a ghastly and terrifying experience. – WS2 Oct 17 '14 at 11:30
  • 3
    @WS2: Precisely. While it may sound funny to some people in very informal contexts, it's certainly a no-go in most situations – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 11:48
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    @JoeBlow: I really like the "xyz Police", and "Stickler of xyz" is also a good substitute, just like "xyz zealot" (as suggested by other answers) – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 13:29

20 Answers 20

62

As @Araucaria says in the comments, Grammar Police is an excellent alternative that conveys the fascistic tendencies of a police state without the genocidal implications.

  • 3
    Unless you're - oh - a policeman or policewoman? And you find jokes about pigs, cops, police etc offensive to your family. – Fattie Oct 17 '14 at 12:13
  • 5
    @JoeBlow the implication is that the Grammar Police are presiding over a frivolous area, not that Police are by nature frivolous and unnecessary. – mskfisher Oct 17 '14 at 12:14
  • 3
    Sure dude - you'd say it to your grandpa who's a Sheriff right? There's never ANY danger of offending anyone these days! :) – Fattie Oct 17 '14 at 12:18
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    @mskfisher "Let's eat grandma." vs. "Let's eat, grandma." - Punctuation (defined by grammar) saves lives, as is thus not "frivolous and unnecessary". – Cees Timmerman Oct 17 '14 at 13:12
  • 6
    I don't know anybody who would be offended by the use of a phrase like "grammar police" here in the US. I can't even imagine how one could consider it offensive to members of the police. It is a literal definition of what they're doing, which is policing grammar. – Chris Hayes Oct 20 '14 at 7:33
44

Pedant comes to mind

A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with formalism, accuracy & precision, or who makes an ostentatious and arrogant show of learning. Wikipedia

  • Yes, that's probably the most accurate term. I wonder though, if it is perceived more negative than "xyz Nazi"...? – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 10:11
  • 1
    What would be Soup Nazi? – jnovacho Oct 17 '14 at 11:12
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    @jnovacho: "No soup for you!", obviously. ;-) – T.J. Crowder Oct 17 '14 at 11:53
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    @JoeBlow Also, it doesn't really work as a replacement ... -- A grammar pedant – Agi Hammerthief Oct 17 '14 at 11:59
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    @JoeBlow: pedant is colloquially used, it is up to us not to let human discourse regress into Seinfeldisms. "Don't be pedantic about grammar" works fine. – smci Oct 17 '14 at 23:14
34

Fascist (in its informal sense of someone who believes in authoritarian, dictatorial control) is a slightly less-charged term, although it's still fairly charged. [Merriam-Webster]

Stickler ("a person who insists on something unyieldingly") is a good uncharged term that still carries a solid meaning. Being uncharged, it lacks the ... impact ... of the other terms, but this is ever the problem: You want impact, but without offending. [dictionary.reference.com]

  • 15
    @LukasEder: Yeah, I'd probably go with stickler if I were at all worried someone would take fascist wrong. I'd never use Nazi. I did that once on CompuServe in ~1994 (calling myself a "comment nazi" [because I feel strongly about commenting source code in programming]), and got a very polite reply from a German saying "I'm not sure what you meant to convey, but I can assure you that here in Germany, the word has no positive connotations." 20 years later, I still remember that phrase exactly. – T.J. Crowder Oct 17 '14 at 12:12
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    Crowder - that guy was soo German :) But seriously, "Stickler" is a great suggestion. – Fattie Oct 17 '14 at 12:16
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    @T.J.Crowder reminds me of sitting next to a christian in England and muttering Jesus H. Christ and being told that "Jesus is my friend, please do not take his name in vain* - arrgh – mplungjan Oct 17 '14 at 12:18
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    Hey what about Grammar Stasi ? – Fattie Oct 17 '14 at 12:25
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    I think Fascist still has strong connotations. I'd really avoid using it!!! – user66974 Oct 17 '14 at 12:41
20

A word with an interesting history that conveys a similar meaning is Zealot. Merriam-Webster tells of the Jewish origins of the word whose current definition is:

a person who has very strong feelings about something (such as religion or politics) and who wants other people to have those feelings

  • 3
    Ah, but Zealots were (ostensibly) "freedom fighters" -- doesn't carry the connotation of being oppressive. – Hot Licks Oct 17 '14 at 16:32
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    @HotLicks Ask the opposing side if they might feel if they were being oppressed. – SrJoven Oct 17 '14 at 16:41
  • But the Zealots, to my knowledge, never succeeded in "oppressing" anyone. (Never succeeded in much of anything, in fact.) – Hot Licks Oct 17 '14 at 16:45
  • 1
    @HotLicks it appears your comment was the only one to use oppress* on this topic. How may I incorporate your comment as whether my answer complies with the posted question? – SrJoven Oct 17 '14 at 20:40
  • 1
    So you never do anything with great zeal? – Hot Licks Oct 20 '14 at 16:50
16

Go with "freak".

A person who is obsessed with a particular activity or interest

Examples:

Grammar-freak, gym-freak, movie-freak.

"Nerd" would be another option. Grammar-nerd; although this implies more of an academic or otherwise studious interest.

  • 1
    Interesting, it might work in some occasions. But an "xyz Nazi" is someone who insists in being right, whereas an "xyz freak" just has heavy interest – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 10:57
  • 2
    Fair point. How about something like "Grammar-overlord" or "grammar-dictator". Grammar police is probably your best bet. – Ste Oct 17 '14 at 11:37
  • Good suggestions. I like "overlord" :-) – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 11:44
  • "freak" outstanding idea – Fattie Oct 17 '14 at 12:12
  • freak has, among other meanings, sexual connotations in US English – smci Oct 17 '14 at 23:15
4

Two archaic words which I found in The Chambers Dictionary, but which are pretty much self-explanatory

  • a gerund-grinder = a pedantic teacher
  • a grammaticaster = a piddling grammarian

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Source: A complete dictionary of the English language By Thomas Sheridan (1797)

  • Oh, I just encountered this word in Johnson's dictionary, and cross referenced it against a few others. Actually, while the definition is self-explanatory, I do think the answer could benefit from a little more explanation regarding the etymological form of grammaticaster. Specifically, information regarding the -aster suffix shown in the Century Dictionary might make this more generally applicable as an alternative to XYZ nazi, rather than just a replacement for the general example given. Would you mind if I made an edit? – Tonepoet Nov 7 '17 at 8:08
  • @Tonepoet thanks this is an answer that was posted over 2 years ago on a question that was asked a year earlier, I'm fine with it. It's an archaic term which I bumped into by chance, and although the -astor suffix information is interesting (a Latin pejorative diminutive) it won't make this suggestion any more relevant. Thanks anyway for the offer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 7 '17 at 8:38
3

Just FTR, I guess "perfectionist" is the completely straightforward, straight, non-offensive, alternate that is, precisely, the "exact" meaning Lukas E. is after.

Grammar Perfectionist

Soup Perfectionist

etc.

IMO "stickler" is the best "fun" way to say it. Again, that precisely implies "spends time correcting mistakes, is offended by slight errors."


Also: it occurs to me it's somewhat common to use other alternate Hated Totalitarian Organisations, something like ...

"What are you, the grammar stasi?"

"What are you, the grammar FBI?" (/CIA /NSA /NRO etc)

"What are you, the grammar KGB?"


One more random approach seen in the wild ... "___ patrol". So, "What are you, the grammar patrol?"

  • 1
    Don't ever use Stasi to someone who hails from former East-Germany. Most will consider it even worse than Nazi. – Tonny Oct 19 '14 at 15:01
3

He thinks he's the last word on grammar.

He runs a tight ship where grammar is concerned.

He operates a zero-tolerance regime on grammar.

He takes no prisoners where grammar is concerned.

He brooks no dissent on grammar.

  • Very nice! I only wish I had more than one vote to give ;O) Martinet is another fun word for this purpose. – Ellie Kesselman Oct 21 '14 at 21:21
2
  • Don't be so Dogmatic

as well as:

  • Pedant /Pedantic ("Don't be pedantic about grammar")
  • Stickler ("Don't be such a stickler about grammar")
1

He's OCD about...

Obsessive compulsive disorder, similar sort of tendency to a "xyz Nazi".

1

It's a bit late but I feel it's worth noting that the word "fiend" probably conveys the meaning you're looking for and is sometimes used like this.

It can refer to a fanatic or to someone who is evil. Which is pretty much the same as the meaning of "Nazi" in "xyz Nazi". Plus, unless your readers are literal demons, I don't think you're likely to offend anyone with it.

One thing to watch out for though, is that the tone/context can probably inadvertently confer a mischievous connotation to the word "fiend" (e.g. "you're a grammar fiend," so-and-so said as he cackled maniacally), whereas I doubt you would be able to convey mischievousness with the word "Nazi", even if you wanted to.

1

Martinet or overseer are quite overbearing and repressive terms. Both are nouns as requested. For something with even more of a snarl, consider "grammar hegemon" in the style of Ender's Game. "Hegemon" was the title used for Ender's older brother, Peter, at the very end of the novel.

* For an overbearing female enforcer, perhaps, "grammar dominatrix" although that may have inseparably strong connotations of sexuality.

1

Amusingly, Wikipedia's entry for "Grammar Nazi" redirects to "Linguistic prescription," so you could also use "XYZ prescriptivist":

A: No, it's different from.
B: Thanks, Mr. Grammar Prescriptivist.

1

How about grammar bluenose?

bluenose

A puritanical person: Bluenoses demand restraint against the porn and violence that are the staple of popular culture (Charles Krauthammer). FOD

Well, the grammar bluenoses will tell you that, except in extraordinary circumstances, only people should show ownership with a 's possessive construction, in which case the phrase would be "a table showing the maturity date of each category of debt."

Actually, in this case, I would side with the bluenoses. StraightDope

I'm only crabby sometimes, and certainly no language bluenose. The Chronicle of Higher Education

0

Bloody-minded--describes someone who makes difficulties for other people by opposing their actions or ideas for no good reason. (the Free Dictionary)

  • 2
    Interesting, I wasn't aware of that term. It seems to have a very negative alternative meaning in British English, though: "deliberately obstructive and unhelpful" – Lukas Eder Oct 17 '14 at 10:56
  • 2
    Yeah, I wouldn't see this in the same context at all. – T.J. Crowder Oct 17 '14 at 11:56
  • This is an adjective. The question is looking for a noun. – GreenAsJade Oct 20 '14 at 1:15
  • @GreenAsJade: that's a chicken-and-egg. Before '-- nazi', there were already tons of viable alternatives, and they were mostly adjectival (e.g. 'He is dogmatic about X' rather than 'He is a dogmatist') – smci Oct 20 '14 at 19:19
0

I'll leave my other answer because I agree that it implies interest rather than authority.

I'll go with Grammar Overlord.

0

Agree about eschewing "Nazi." I prefer "grammar boffin." It seems to me it's high time to reverse the pernicious juggernaut of pejoratives aimed at educated people.

-1

Since this term was used in a Tatort (sunday evening tv show in Germany) episode this year, it is now perfectly fine to use this term in Germany!

  • 4
    Just because the phrase is used in a German-speaking crime drama does not make it an acceptable phrase for polite company. (Of course, the phrase is a nonissue in the US.) – Brian S Oct 20 '14 at 16:08
  • It is not a German-speaking crime drama, it is THE German-speaking crime drama! – Steffen Oct 21 '14 at 6:54
-1

I prefer Grammar / xyz fundamentalist.

-3

I just saw it in the supermarket recently, a much-belated pc-brutalized product tie-in for Seinfeld's "The Soup Nazi". The child-safe version is ...

The Soup Man

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