When my daughter was small and angry with me, she called me the Mean Mean Monkey Queen (Thank you, “The Wizard of Oz”), so I thought that if I ever had a grammar column or blog, I’d use the name Mean Mean Grammar Queen, since having taught grammar, linguistics and writing for four decades probably qualifies me for that title.

The problem is that I walk a thin line between grammarian and linguist in my life.

Grammarians tend to make the rules, throwing usage to the wind, while linguists tend to make the rules based on usage.

So if I received the following inquiry, “Dear MMGQ: When is it alright to use ‘alright?’ Sincerely, Confused,” as a grammarian I would have to say, “Never! ‘Alright’ is not a word” — although technically it was a word in Old English — but as a linguist I would have to admit that it is a word now because people use it. And it’s everywhere: T-shirts, close-captioning and song titles, to name a few.

However, although “alright” is widely used, I still don’t like it. I could go into the specifics of why “all right” doesn’t work like “all together/altogether,” “all ready/already” and “although,” but who really cares? Even spell-check doesn’t.

My students are surprised when I suggest just doing away with “whom” and the apostrophe — since many use neither properly anymore. I show them the many examples from my collection of signs with words that need apostrophes — or don’t. The Stans Plaza sign, with its “its” vs. “it’s,” is my “go-to” example.

I do draw the line at “irregardless,” “there/your” for “their/you’re,” agreement and tense errors, case errors (“Him and me are going to the mall.” or “between you and I”), and another pet peeve — comma misuse.

Some punctuation is variable, but a comma can change a sentence’s meaning completely, as shown by the popular example, “Let’s eat Grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.”

I don’t even mind a preposition at the end of a sentence, as long as it isn’t “Where’s my car at?”

I do object to people “utilizing” things when they could just “use” them or “conversating” when they should be “conversing.” I don’t like “than” being used as a preposition (We are faster than them.) or “like” being used as a conjunction (I feel like I’m losing.). Again, it’s rules vs. usage, and usage is winning.

As a grammarian, am I railing against nit-picky details that no one really cares about any more? Am I becoming one of those English teachers who correct signs in supermarkets? Is the tsunami of social media washing the rules out to sea, never to be used, just debated?

I want our students to write well, to use the English language in a sophisticated way, to be aware that some rules should be followed while others are negotiable, that language usage changes with context. What little grammar training we get in school is largely forgotten after eighth grade.

We have no “grammar police,” no academy whose purpose is to dictate how others should speak. And from a linguist’s point of view, that’s a really good thing. Grammar handbooks, websites, dictionaries and teachers can give us enough guidance — if they can agree.

I love teaching about language and grammar and finding examples of irregular usage, but the good grammar/bad grammar debate is a small part of a very large linguistic history that requires some deeper study to unravel and 50 years to see what happens. Language does not grow if it cannot change. Some of us just take longer to get “utilized” to it.

Kathy Lyday is a Professor of English at Elon University.