Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Clarification about the meaning of snobbery

I guess I'm not really much of a snob when it comes to grammar. In my mind, a "snob" is a person with an unreasonable disdain for others who are unlike him in some sense. I don't think my disdain for people who don't know the difference between "it's" and "its" is unreasonable. Now, my disdain for NASCAR fans is, arguably, unreasonable. Well, no, not really. Bad example. How about people who don't like classical music? Maybe, except that I don't have any disdain for them, simply over that.

But it turns out I'm a snob about some things.

Here's what triggered this post. I'm at the office, and I make a phone call to some one in the course of business. The conversation goes something like this.

"Good afternoon, Akin Butz, may I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like to speak to Ima Shyster, please."

"May I ask who's calling?"

[After years of therapy, I've broken my old habit of simply replying "Yes", and instead telling the person who answered the phone my name.]

"Yes, this is Michael Simpson."

"I'm sorry, Mike, it looks like she has stepped out of the office. Would you like her voice mail?"

Last things first. I wouldn't like her voice mail, but I'll settle for it. I'll accept a less favorable alternative, if it's the only one I've got. (Now, see, all you real grammar snobs are rolling your eyes at my use of the word "alternative" instead of "alternate". Just kidding, guys.)

But there was a time, even in the South, when you wouldn't think of referring to a person you just met by his first name. And this clown didn't even do that; he took it upon himself to shorten my name to Mike. Would it kill you to call me Mr. Simpson? No, because the receptionists at the thick-carpet firms on Congress Avenue do it all the time.

But I've never really raised hell about it, until today. I know that if I did, people would think I was a snob. Which I am, in this case, because it is unreasonable, but only a little because I really don't care that much. So grant me this one vice.

I finally get connected to the voice mail, and it opens thusly.

"You've reached Ima Shyster."

No I haven't! I've reached your voicemail, dammit! AAAAAAUGHHH!

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