"Scammer Grammar" is a term I learned today, for a phenomenon I have noticed for a long time. As its rhyming name explains, Scammer Grammar is the grammar (in the non-technical sense: it also includes spelling, capitalization and content) used by scammers online. Specifically, scammer grammar comes about when a non-native English speaker tries to pretend that they are a typical American man or lady, often looking for romance. Sometimes scammer grammar is also used by people who state that they are from another country, but who attempt to use inflated and verbose English phrases to appear more official.

There are many varieties of Scammer Grammar, depending on what country the scammer comes from, what type of scam they are trying to pull, and how dedicated and experienced they are. Scammer grammar might includes:

  • Unusual punctuation, including commas where they don't belong.
  • Stilted and overly formal phrases.
  • A mixture of lazy txtspeak with the above. "hey r u available to talk??? I am a wealthy gentleman of serious extraction who wishes to meet with you at your convenience."
  • Grammatically correct phrases that are unlikely to be used by a native speaker: "Are you in a marriage?", for example, while technically correct, is not how the question would normally be phrased. Often the slips involve usage of articles.
  • Using spellings or phrases that aren't consistent with where the person claims to be from. Usually, this is British English such as "At University" or "My Favourite" coming from someone who claims to be from Ohio.
  • Along with grammar, there is issues of content. For example, a 19 year old woman who claims to be attending medical school is unlikely to be an American (or a attending medical school, or a woman, for that matter).

Scammer grammar is not just what prescriptivists would describe as "bad grammar". On the contrary, it can be more "correct" than what a native speaker would use. For example,

"I am a young lady attending university in search of a fine gentleman."
is a quite "correct" English sentence while sounding completely unlikely, while
"Are you gonna be here in, like, 5 mins or so??? Me and my friends are gonna go to the store or something."
is a prescriptively "incorrect" sentence that sounds like a natural phrase that a native speaker would write.

Most Scammer grammar seems to come from countries where English might be spoken in an official capacity and taught in schools, but where people might not be naturally fluent with it: Russia and Eastern Europe, West Africa (including, of course, Nigeria) and the Indian Subcontinent. Some of these people seem to be engaging in scams for financial reasons, while others might be motivated by being gay men in homophobic societies who resort to female personalities online.

I don't know if much academic research has been done on the phenomenon of Scammer Grammar: the study of casual, written language seems to be an emerging field, since the usage of written language to "chat" has only existed for 15 or so years. Given the importance of the internet, and the number of social media companies that depend on keeping their users safe, the field of grammar and language parsing for security reasons might be a developing one.

What interests me the most about the issue is how recognizably unnatural scammer grammar sounds. The natural flow of language by a native speaker involves interjections, explanations, ellipses, partial sentences, and a variety of phrase constructions that is hard to mimic. In musical terms, language seems to have a timbre, tone or flow that can't be taught, and can't be quantified, but which is very obvious when lacking.

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