Above the Law

Yes: It is an acronym coined by the family of David Foster Wallace, who introduced the term to the literary world in his essay “Authority and American Usage” in Consider the Lobster 66-127 (2006). The word stands for either “Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance” or “Syntax Nudniks of Our Time.” As for Sprachgefühl (now an English word), learning its meaning will enhance your feeling for the language.

Snoots are simply people who are punctilious about words, grammar, punctuation, pronunciation, and allied linguistic skills. The term is less off-putting than such pejorative terms as grammar nazi, word nerd, syntax snob, or language police. Wallace called those terms “outright dysphemisms” and defined a snoot as “somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.” See Wallace, “Tense Present,” Harper’s, Apr. 2001, at 39.

Wallace’s sense is related to a sense recorded by Merriam-Webster: “a snooty person; snob.” How long it will take lexicographers to record the Wallace sense is open to speculation. With over half a million Google hits for “Wallace snoot,” and given Wallace’s literary influence, it probably won’t be long. For now, the word can be regarded as a neologism.

For further discussion, see Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing (2013) and Garner’s Modern American Usage 756 (3d ed. 2009).

Bryan A. Garner, President of LawProse Inc., is the most prolific CLE presenter in the U.S., having trained more than 150,000 lawyers and judges. His book — most prominently Black’s Law Dictionary and Garner’s Modern American Usage — have been cited as authority by every state and federal appellate court, including the highest. For more about him, go to www.lawprose.org. To follow him on Twitter: @bryanagarner.

  • ATL's CLE Partner

    CLE

  • Featured Job

    Mid-Level Labor & Employment Associate in New York

    Epstein Becker and Green

    The New York City office of Epstein Becker & Green seeks an attorney to work at the level of a fourth to sixth year associate to join its national employer-side labor and employment practice. Knowledge of the full range of federal and state employment statutes, prior litigation experience, and experience and knowledge with matters involving all aspects of labor and employment law, including discrimination, wrongful discharge, harassment, wage & hour and employment contract cases is needed.

    Click to see the full description.

  • Jobs