I used to be a member of the squad. I got passionate about apostrophes and gave detailed lectures to my students on dangling participles and semicolons and I really believed them. I once spent a long time telling a class why the difference between "every day" and "everyday" was deeply important. They looked at me like I was nuts (pardon: as if I were nuts). I might even have said something along the lines of, If the only thing you learn this semester is why "every day" is not the same as "everyday," I'll die happy. Maybe I was nuts.
Somewhere along the line I turned in my badge. What happened? I don't really know. I think it started with the phrase: I could care less. Technically, of course, it should be I couldn't care less, but a few years ago I realized I like I could care less better. It's more carefree, somehow; it sounds like someone tossing her beret aside. I couldn't care less sounds full of denial, full of thou dost protest too much.
And I began to enjoy seeing misplaced apostrophe's on menus' and poster's.
I guess I stopped believing in correctness. I still think good, clean writing is better than sloppy writing, but only because it's good and clean, not because it's correct. If I use my smaller fork to eat my salad these days, it's because I truly want the bigger one to tackle my entree, not because someone decided it was the correct one.
Now that I think about it, you know who I blame? George Bush. No, really! Six and a half years ago, I abandoned my last shreds of respect for unearned authority. And though it's true that Bush personally uses execrable, positively criminal grammar, and one might feel it a form of protest to use only the most correct English as a response, that would be buying into his game. Because he's deliberately trying to piss us -- those of us who care about things like language and literature and beauty and truth -- off.
It's just too easy to be correct, to take refuge in correctness. Correctness has come to feel like complacency, these last few years. It feels like fussing over where the dessert spoon belongs when people are being murdered under the table.