X Nazi

Over on Language Log, Geoff Pullum has just posted about a flap over a use of the expression health Nazi, saying that

Calling someone a health Nazi strikes me as a semi-jocular (if rather abusive) way of accusing him of foisting his health ideas on others in an authoritarian way.

and noting that calling someone a health Nazi is not calling them a member of the National Socialist party. The pattern in X Nazi (or nazi) is one of

a number of N1 + N2 composite patterns, most of them non-subsective (the denotation of the composite is not within the denotation of N2), but all of them exhibiting some semantic oddities, and all of them formulaic to some degree, hence snowclone-like. In other words, “snowclonelet composites”.

(from my posting here).

My collection of snowclonelets has been mounting; X drag and X magnet are the ones I’ve posted about most recently (here and here). X Nazi came up on Language Log back in 2004, in a brief posting by Mark Liberman, citing linguistics nazi and grammar nazi, and also some examples (Open Source Nazi and Soup Nazi, plus the portmanteau Feminazi) from a Wikipedia entry that observed that some people are offended by such uses of nazi in popular culture.

The OED covers the usage. The draft revision of December 2009 has a subentry for the noun Nazi:

hyperbolically. A person who is perceived to be authoritarian, autocratic, or inflexible; one who seeks to impose his or her views upon others. Usu. derogatory.

This is an improvement on Mark’s rough gloss “someone who is serious about X in an unfriendly way”.

The OED entry has a 1982 cite for the Safety Nazis and a 1995 cite for Aerobics Nazis, indicating that the very well-known use of soup Nazi on the television sitcom Seinfeld might have been a vector for the spread of the pattern X Nazi, but it wasn’t the source of the pattern. (The episode “The Soup Nazi”, the 116th on the show, first aired on 11/2/95.)

On to grammar nazi, which is all over the place. Here’s a 2008 Ozy and Millie cartoon with it:

and a 2009 blog entry that begins:

I am a grammar nazi. Really. Everyone has a pet-peeve, right? Something that just irritates them beyond belief? Well, for me, that happens to be poor grammar and an incorrect usage of homophones.

Meanwhile, grammar nazi has come up several times on Language Log, for reference to “a person who insists on correcting (or incorrecting) other people’s usage” (as Mark Liberman put it here).

11 Responses to “X Nazi”

  1. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Mark Liberman has added a comment to Geoff’s health Nazi posting, with cites for clothes nazi, surf nazi, and jazz nazi.

  2. Sam Says:

    Hacker jargon has had “fascist” for some time, as attested here:


    and here


  3. h. s. gudnason Says:

    I just found the linked article in a language column in an Austrian paper. The writer quotes an attorney acting on behalf of smokers protesting against a ban on smoking in Austrian restaurants, who calls the law’s advocates “nicotine Taliban.” Seems to be the same construction.


  4. mollymooly Says:

    @h. s. gudnason
    I guess “X Nazi” would have a different resonance in Austria.

  5. arnoldzwicky Says:

    Commenter Alex on Geoff Pullum’s health Nazi posting cites Richard Littlejohn, here, with more X nazi cases, plus X fascist (health fascists, diversity fascists), plus some with stormtrooper, communist, gestapo, commisar, commando.

  6. Un « Grammar Nazi » est-il un grammairien ou un nazi ? | La pensée du discours Says:

    […] English Dictionary, comme l’explique Arnold Zwicky sur son blog, dans un billet intitulé X-Nazi, qui allonge par ailleurs le paradigme lexical avec safety nazi et aerobics nazi : « The […]

  7. Grammandos and more « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Grammar Nazis (though we’ve posted on the X Nazi snowclonelet; see, for example, here, here, here, here (specifically on Grammar Nazi), and […]

  8. Peanuts vs. the grammar nazis « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the snowclonelet X nazi, with special reference to grammar nazi, see here and […]

  9. X porn « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Nazi/nazi (link, link, among others) [X fascist etc. […]

  10. Cyanide and Happiness roundup | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Nazi is a snowclonelet composite, an instance of the pattern X Nazi/nazi. (Discussion on this blog here and here, with links to Language Log and other discussions.) In the C&H strip, the soldier […]

  11. Friday Fun with a Grammar Nazi | Pros Write Says:

    […] week, I happened upon this video. Perfect for a little Friday fun!  Visit Arnold Zwicky’s X Nazi for a little discussion of the use of “nazi” to signal hyperbole. Check out Know […]

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