WEBSNARKERY: Grammatical Judgement In Convenient Shirt Form!


(It's the new Revelations of Strunk & White shirt! Click on the thumbnail for full size!)

There are tee shirts on their way to happy customers, even as we speak! (With luck they'll remain happy customers after the tee shirts get there -- I suspect they will, just because the shirts rock!)

As it turns out, Paypal's auto-shipping functions ember the baby pony. (They don't work right with my Dymo printer on either Windows or Mac.) So, I'm using Endicia instead. It's fantastic. Shipping's a breeze with it. I have the wrong labels for delivery confirmation (though I have confirmation labels on order), but it prints both the addresses and the postage perfectly, each and every time. And it e-mails the person who I'm shipping to and tells them its on the way (though I went through about ten shirts before I discovered that feature -- so if you don't get an e-mail, don't worry. It's still likely going to show up.) Shipping is, weirdly enough, fun.

And, as these go out... the next shirt comes in. Namely... fresh on the heels of the Grammar and Usage holy war discussion, its "The Revelations of Strunk & White!" Inspired initially by the last panel of many a Jack Chick tract, the scene depicts the God of Grammar on Judgement Day as he casts grammatical sinners into the Lake of Fire reserved for the Grammar Devil.

Hey, if you're going to blindly follow a testament in this world, believing it literally and interpreting it narrowly, shouldn't it be The Elements of Style?

The shirt will be printed in Grammatically Fundamentalist Black and White, and features kick-ass artwork by Greg Holkan. It is available in a panorama of colors (because it's black and white, with requisite black outlining on the top and bottom text, we can print it on both light and dark colors) on Gildan 100% cotton tee shirts for $17 (slightly more for 2XL or higher) and Bella 100% cotton v-neck and crew neck babydolls for $18 (also more for 2XL or higher). Click on the links to go to the individual sales pages -- you can see the color charts there, and place your orders!

A couple of notes -- Canadian shipping is now firmly ensconced in with International (the post office doesn't seem to care we share a monumentally long border with them, as it turns out), and I had to slightly up the shipping costs (shipping and handling is supposed to cover supplies, time for packing, and postage. As it works out, the last run didn't quite cover... er... postage. Whoops.) to $4 domestic, $8 international.

This is not a limited edition run. However, this specific ordering period is two weeks long. On August 5 at midnight, we close orders and send off the run, and we can't say how quickly we'll print this one again. (I guess it depends on how many shirts we sell in the first place.) So, if this makes you laugh, or if you know an English major or teacher who'll plotz when they see this, this would be the time to buy!

Oh, technically it's pretty blasphemous. So, if this gets you thrown out of Seminary, we take no responsibility. On the other side of it, we assume this is a feature, not a bug.

(Snarky shirts are coming -- we wanted to do a full color run, but that might be problematic. We're working with Brunetto and also investigating high quality image transfer companies like Ellen Million Shirts. When we have those worked out, we'll offer Snarky!)

Click here for 100% cotton Gildan tee shirt sales!
Click here for Bella crew-neck babydoll sales!
Click here for Bella v-neck babydoll sales!

Peace, y'all.


And, as these go out... the next shirt comes in. Namely... fresh on the heels of the Grammar and Usagediscussion, its "The Revelations of Strunk & White!"

Oh, Eric, Eric, Eric. I find it highly amusing that, in a snark to promote a Strunk & White T-shirt, you use the wrong form of "it's." Irony can be a beautiful thing.

You know, Eric, I could barely justify it to the missus that I got yet another t-shirt (coming home with suitcases full of them whenever I go anywhere is starting to wear on her). As much as I want it, I can't pull the trigger on this one. Even for her.

Now if you made a shirt coming out against Comic Sans, I'd be morally obligated to buy it for her.

And, I'll be bold enough and admit it, that's the one piece from Strunk & White that never sat well with me. It's probably because they taught me the wrong way in every single English class I've ever taken. I end up trying to avoid using apostrophes with words that end in "s" just to keep from the mental clash of my schooling and Elements of Style.

There, I've admitted it. I'll get expelled from the Holy Grammatical Army, Semicolon Division, but at least I can walk unashamed of my integrity.

Is there a reason, in this ad for a grammatical god t-shirt, that "its" appears twice where a contractive "it's" is required?

("its on the way" and "its 'The Revelations of Strunk & White!'")

Now if you made a shirt coming out against Comic Sans, I'd be morally obligated to buy it for her. - 32_footsteps

Yeah, I'm in for that one. The template for mid-year reviews at my company is in Comic Sans -- I'm not sure what message they're trying to send....

Oh, Eric, Eric, Eric. I find it highly amusing that, in a snark to promote a Strunk & White T-shirt, you use the wrong form of "it's." Irony can be a beautiful thing.

We are all sinners, every one of us.

I'd buy one if I didn't totally disagree with it. That's just Kris' opinion, not Kris's's's.

The idea that there's more than one Kristofer Straub, holding opinions in some kind of communal hivemind, terrifies me beyond rational thought.

But you raise a good point. Perhaps it would be a better idea to make the offenses nonspecific. Sure, people who hate Strunk and White won't buy one, except for those that do, but still....

Make the offense "your/you're" confusion. Those people will burn in the special hell, reserved for child molestors and those who talk in the theatre.

I'm anxiously watching these mershandising posts, as you are doing all my research for me. I'll be selling Godzilla joins the Sioux shirts soon.

merchandising... sheesh, praise to St. Tpyo!

First off, regardless of what Eric and Strunk and White say, my supervisor says to not add an extra "s", and she is God to me :)

Also, you can already buy comic sans=evil shirts. Not to take food from your children's's mouths or anything, I just like feeling helpful.

Personally I think comic sans has it's place in the wonderful rainbow of fonts, but I'm an unrepentant font criminal from way back.

Not to take food from your children's's mouths


No one tells me anything.

Ellen Million?

That name sounds very, very familiar to me, and I don't know why. Is there a link?

Yeah, put me down for your/you're, its/it's, or even imply/infer. The newspaper where I work enforces the "no extra 's' " rule, so I can't really wear this particular shirt.

(We also chose to ignore the Associated Press when they dropped the hyphen from "teen-ager." Don't EVEN get me started about trying to lure a younger, hipper crowd to newspapers when we're still calling them "teen-agers.")


Proper collectively shared grammar and spelling usage is indeed important. Precision is impossible without such an agreed upon system in place. The main reason to use "proper" English in an everyday setting is to maintain one's skills when precise usage is necessary. Being capable of proper English does not exclude the ability to use colloquialisms and vernacular. However, if one eschews proper English, and is capable only of said colloquialisms and vernacular, then one finds oneself incapable of the precision offered by proper English when such a need does arise.

The rules in "Elements of Style" were written for students, and are intended to aid students in creating clean, understandable compositions.

As a professional graphic designer myself, I've fought for proper grammar usage with people who were at once more powerful than myself, and apparently ignorant of the sway held by the Chicago Manual of Style. Sorry, Eric, but "Elements of Style" is, by it's own admission, a primer. It is by no means intended to be all inclusive. The Manual of Style, however, tries very, very hard to be inclusive. It offers alternatives to Strunk and White when those alternatives are available, but usually avers to "Elements" when a conflict arises, only to offer a contradiction or an alternative when overwhelming representation in public usage in a particular instance conflicts with "Elements".

However, the Manual of Style gives options in order of preference, with explanations regarding why one option is preferred over another.

Also, the Chicago Manual of Style has been THE authority on this stuff for Graphic Designers, Typesetters, Reporters, Professional Writers, Technical Writers, &c... almost since the first printing, back in the day.

I suppose this is to say 4 things:

1) "Usage" is what everyone agrees it is, but that doesn't mean that it's okay to change it at will because proper usage sounds too "stuffy", or doesn't look right, or sounds "condescending". These are reasons to reexamine one's own education and consider whether or not it is, in truth, lacking.

2) If overwhelming evidence exists that usage has changed, then the "rules" should change with it.

3) Without using an "'s" after a word ending in "s", things can het confusing. Ask your lawyer if grammar is important. (I could be wrong on that, but I seem to remember speaking with a few lawyers who were QUITE anal-retentive regarding their grammar for the purposes of writing contracts...)

4) My mom was an English teacher. Does it show?

By the way, if my grammar or spelling is off in the above paragraph, it goes to show that having an English teacher for a mom ain't everything, brother. (Hence my reliance on the CMofS)

See, there I go. Paragraph. Crap. That was a posting. This is why you shouldn't drink and post kiddies. Merlot makes a poor companion to the lonely message poster.

Actually, Greg, I was most amused by your use of it's for its. Don't feel too bad, I've seen that on CBS News.

Speaking as someone who:

(a) has too damn many T-shirts got for free various places or grabbed from stock at last minute during a clothing crisis; and

(b) who has been caught in the middle of holy wars between one grammar teacher who insists on 's always, now and forever, and another who says s's is an abomination which should never be tolerated, never has been tolerated, and never will be tolerated;

I'm giving this one a miss, with rather less regret than otherwise might be, since I love to see the Great Light Bulb used for petty things like this.

If overwhelming evidence exists that usage has changed, then the "rules" should change with it

Are you saying I should stop spelling sha'n't with two apostrophes?

So, um... I don't quite get it.

Was the point of this shirt that it's one of the "rules" that grates people's teeth and that many other good authorities flatly disagree with? Ironic statement about Chick's use of this trope and all that?

Because otherwise, if you're actually taking a straight-faced stab at terrible usage, you chose the wrong rule.

While the Chick parody part is excellent, I don't think I know a single person who would 'get' the joke . But seeing as how everyone who posts here is a Lvl. 60 Literate Intellectual, I believe I am in the minority, so good luck (disclaimer: no sarcasm here, in case I'm misunderstood again)

A 'there's/theirs' | 'you're/yours' shirt I would seriously consider. I won't make any promises though, blew the last of my extra money on a custom t-shirt for my dad!

Have you thought about doing stickers, Eric?

My grammar's a nice lady who wont care for this rule. Their's something to stick in you're pipe and smoke.

Har! I bitch-slapped you, English!

merchandising... sheesh, praise to St. Tpyo!

There is no St. Tpyo. There is only Titivillus. All hail your infernal master!

(I know, I'm not a regular poster (though I am a regular reader.) I hope you won't hold it against me!)

Was the point of this shirt that it's one of the "rules" that grates people's teeth and that many other good authorities flatly disagree with? Ironic statement about Chick's use of this trope and all that?

Well, actually, yes it is.

I used Rule One for three basic reasons. One, the shirt derived from the Snark on Steve Jackson, and so that harkened back to it. Two -- this is on one level a joke about Dispensational Christianity and Jack Chick as a practitioner of it. Just like it doesn't work to poke fun at Chick Tracts by condemning unrepentant murderers to death, since pretty much all Christians would agree that's bad, it doesn't serve the joke quite as well to make it about your/you're, I don't think. The point has to be debatable to make the ridiculously fundamentalist stance "work."

Also... as has been said in this thread, Strunk and White is a primer. (Admittedly, a primer that is superior to pretty much all other primers, in part because it's so much fun to read.) Adopting a hard line literalist reading of it is absurd. And absurd is, one hopes, funny.

Finally, the other level of the joke -- the condemnation of bad grammar users to Hell -- is one that many, many teachers and English students can get behind. For that level of the joke, the specific rule being invoked almost doesn't matter: it's like me last night at the Cafe. It's not that the screaming children were specifically misapplying plurals to singular possessives -- it's that their overall grammar usage was loud and atrocious, and I yearned for divine retribution.

Or so it seems to me. The shirt's selling pretty solidly, so it seems to have appeal, so I'd say that there's one segment that gets it.

I think it's a pretty funny image (I am an English major, after all), but I don't think it's t-shirt material. I haaaate shirts with huge images that take effort to read and "get."

Yeah, I think this might be a bit much for a T-shirt. On the other hand, it would make a kick-ass poster.

Well, actually, yes it is.

Ah, I see. That does make sense. I don't know, it still doesn't grab me very well, though. I think the problem is that there isn't enough difference in the strengths of the two layers to the message. The overt message is obviously greatly weakened by the existence of an ironic one.

However, it's still fairly strong. People hate bad grammar, as you said. It actually subtracts from the ironic subtext. Because there is (arguable) validity to the overt, it takes some thought to distinguish the ironic. People who own that Bob the Angry Flower poster are probably not going to get the joke for several long seconds, if they bother getting it.

T-shirts are a medium people glance at, so that really subtracts from the value. If you ever do another edition of this shirt, I would suggest changing it so that the overt layer isn't one people will get behind so much.


I agree it wouldn't make a good T-shirt. But it would make one bloody hell of a poster!

(Yup, that's right. First t-shirts, then posters, and then mugs...until finally you enter the 3rd level of Cafepress Hell and end up selling metal travel mugs embossed with the traditional Websnark trademark.)

Oh, the irony of it all... I really don't need to comment on this one.

Re: overanalysis--

I actually think the fact that it's both sincere and ironic makes it more fun. Layer one; hating bad grammar, yay. Layer two: ridiculous thing to obsess over, ironic yay. Layer three: You care even when you know it's trivial and that's funny, and so on until you get to the tasty nugget core of the meanings, which I would argue is (core is, not meanings is) a restatement of what makes geek culture so special: we know how to enjoy the very disproportionality of our obsessions, so we get the fun of everything being important and the humor of nothing being important. I think that's why the shirt appeals to me when, as is clear from my writing style, Strunk and White would most likely set me on fire if it were feasible for them to do so.

But, ah, I agree that this would make a better poster than T-shirt. People get embarrassed if you're wearing a babydoll and they need to stop you and stare very intently at your right boob to know what the hell you're wearing.

Um, is the person in the middle trying to look up God's toga? That takes gumption. Maybe they are taking "all secrets will be revealed in Heaven" too literally.

Cute shirt but too many words. I'm uncomfortable with someone staring at my chest for that long unless they've already bought me a couple of drinks.

I to have had much teaching that is in conflict with the writ shown.

I am lost.


Ha! I am free! At long bl**dy last I am free of the curse that is Explorer, freed by the ginger might that is Firefox (which actually was the name of a Champions character of mine a long time ago).

So, what is my first post on this board going to be? Praise for the Snarkmeister? Confusion at Wednesday's prose style? No alas, I have to take a page out of Eric's book and say, "Eric, you are wrong."

Eric may well be right in saying that the dropped s is wrong, but not in English. In English Fowlers Usage is the tablets from the mount, the source of all wisdom. S&W fulfils this role for American, and possibly Canadian Wednesday should know, which is not the same.

And to continue, there is another error here. Are we not discussing a point of punctuation, not grammar?

Oh, I fully acknowledge that primitive societies cling to their tribal customs in matters of grammar that we Americans let evolve into something more sophisticated.

(And no. The rules of the singular possessive are rules of style and usage, not punctuation. That puts them solidly into grammar.)

That's odd, over here we watch the primitive societies get things wrong and call it progress. I prefer to think of ourselve as an ancient and debauched culture :-)

y'know, enjoying this debate reminds me of discussions of such slang as "ain't" when I was a child, using that dreadful word to irritate my parental units. "Do not use that word!" She would say. "Ain't is not a real word!"

"ah, but Moooooom," says I, in my 8-year-old wisdom, "it's in the dictionary. That makes it real!"

So if "ain't," in all its horror, is made real by being in the dictionary, and both S&W and Fowler's Usage are considered true blue reference materials in the same vein as the (tada!) dictionary, then doesn't that mean that both rules are true? Since both are included in widely respected sources, doesn't that make both correct? And what happens if you put the Fowler's Usage and the S&W rules on the same page? Do they cause an explosion of tremendous proportions, in much the same way as matter and anti-matter?

If so, can I watch? From a safe distance, of course, I don't want grammar explosion juice in my hair.

Technically Fowlers is a style and usage guide for British Standard English and Strunk & White is for American English, so the two books can't truly conflict.

The conflict comes from you casting all to the flames of grammatical hell for correct use of the language you colonial heretics hijacked and abuse on a daily basis!

Don't get me started on Marmite!!!

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