U.S.—Is it O.K. to punch a grammar Nazi? This question has been floating around the internet after footage of an attack on a well-known, self-professed “grammatical purist,” Shawnton P. Middesmith, went viral on Friday.
According to a new study, the answer among Americans is an overwhelming “Absolutely.”
Middlesmith, who identifies as an “alt-writer” and describes himself as a “grammartarian,” was punched in the head by a person clad in black as he was being interviewed by a journalist from ProofReader Monthly. At the time of the attack, Middlesmith was explaining some of his controversial beliefs, such as far-right justified indentations, a distaste for Times New Roman Black, Nominitive Case-baiting, the annihilation of 99% of all ellipsis use, intransitive verbaphobia, anti-semicolon, and dedicated to the spreading of the Oxford comma. Video of the attack shows Mr. Middlesmith’s glasses reeling to one side under the force of the blow and his attacker darting through a crowd after landing the punch.
Mr. Middlesmith later reported he was spat on, kicked in the pants, and epithets were hurled at him such as, “commanist,” “Neo-sentence capitalist,” “semi-colonialist,” “apostrophobic,” and “Question marxist.”
Video of the attack quickly inspired a flood of jokes and memes online, some of which set the punch to songs like “Word Crimes,” by Weird Al.
There was little substantive debate online about the ethics of punching the grammar Nazi. Opponents of the punch were hard to find. Supporters tended to say the punch was funny, and more than a few compared Middlesmith’s attacker to famous Nazi punchers from pop culture, like Indiana Jones and Captain America. All in all, one study found that 97% of the country supported punching annoying grammar Nazis.
“All nazis should be punched in the face, and that includes grammar nazis, even soup nazis,” said one person on Twitter. The tweet had over four million likes and retweets.
For the record, Shawnton Middlesmith says he is not a Grammar Nazi. In an interview on Saturday, he said he was a member of the alt-write, which he calls “a movement toward grammatical purity, favoring the upper case, with a goal toward write supremacy.” Middlesmith said he chooses not to use the term "grammar nazi "because “it doesn’t resonate” and because he says “my views are more complex. The tax I am most concerned with is syntax. The authoritarian regime I support is Funk & Wagnall’s. German National Socialism is a historic movement of the past. It arose at a very particular time and had particular motives and ideas and policies and styles that had little to do with grammar. Besides, Mein Kampf is full of grammatical errors.”
Middlesmith says he is worried about being punched again. He says he doesn’t feel safe leaving his seedy duplex anymore. People on the internet say he should be scared. “I don’t think any kind of nazi should feel safe walking the streets of America,” said one tweet. “I’m all for the proper use of punch-you-ation.”