March 4, National Grammar Day 2013

Are you motivated to do something about grammar?  If you’re lucky enough to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and you read the paper today, you probably know where this is going.

Every year on March 4 (also known as march forth! which will make sense in a second), language-minded folks raise their grammartini glasses and drink to National Grammar Day.

Established in 2008 by author and editor Martha Brockenbrough, who also founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, National Grammar Day is a celebration of words in all their written, spoken, tweeted, texted splendor.

Grammar police

Grammar police visited this sign — for National Grammar Day? Photo: the_munificent_sasquatch

Probably the best place to start would be Motivated Grammar:

It’s National Grammar Day 2013, which has really snuck up on me. If you’ve been here in previous years, you know that I like to do three things on March 4th: have a rambling speculative discussion about the nature of grammar and/or linguistics, link to some people’s posts I’ve liked, and link to some of my posts. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with dissertation work lately that I’m a bit worn out on discussion and haven’t been adequately keeping up with everyone’s blogs. So I hope you’ll forgive my breach of etiquette in making this year’s NGD post all Motivated Grammar posts.

Well, not entirely. Everyone in our little community gets in on National Grammar Day, so let me mention a few good posts I’ve seen so far. Kory Stamper discusses her mixed feelings on the day, as well as on correcting people’s language in general. Dennis Baron looks at the abandoned, paranoid, wartime predecessor of NGD, “Better American Speech Week”. And from last year, but only better from the aging process, Jonathon Owen and goofy had posts asking what counts as evidence for grammatical correctness or incorrectness, and why we’re so often content to repeat grammar myths.

Yeah, yeah.  He said “snuck.”  You and I know he should have said “sneaked,” but he’s probably go the new dictionaries that caved on the issue.  I think this breach of common sense and moral standards of grammar is the cause of our present political trouble in Washington, the Stupid Sequestration, and the Great Gridlock.

The rest of the post is pretty good, though, especially the debunking of ten more myths of grammar.  Go see.

An actual National Grammar Day website exists, courtesy of Grammar Girl, I think.

Excited yet?  Go back to that Chicago Tribune article:

A highlight of the holiday each year is the haiku contest, in which contestants are urged to tweet grammar- or usage-based haikus. Judges include Ben Zimmer, the Boston Globe language columnist and executive producer of Visual Thesaurus, Martha Barnette, who hosts a nationally syndicated public radio program called “A Way with Words,” Bill Walsh, a copy editor at the Washington Post and author of “Lapsing into a Comma,” and, of course, Brockenbrough.

Last year’s winner was Larry Kunz, a technical writer from Raleigh-Durham, N.C.. His winning poem:

Being a dangler,

Jane knew it would have to come

out of the sentence

Runners-up included this gem from one Charlie MacFadyen:

Wanted: one pronoun,

To take the place of he/she

“They” need not apply

And this, from Tom Freeman:

People shouldn’t say

“I could care less” when they mean

“I could care fewer”

The holiday is not, planners says, an opportunity to scold.

I understand Grammarly runs an annual photo contest.  I haven’t found it yet.  Will you let us know in comments, if you find the photos?  (This isn’t it, though there may be overlap).

(But, no, Dear Reader, I had not been aware of National Grammar Day, either, until just about an hour ago.  March 4th/March Forth!, is the link, I suppose.  We’re ten days away from International Pi Day, too:  3.14.)

Also, let me interject one of my favorite sentences.  In a long, sometimes bitter discussion about grammar and social reform way back in 1957, there were people who argued that grammar is essential to meaning, and that correct grammar could carry the entire meaning.  To that idea, Noam Chomsky came up with a rebuttal in the form of a sentence that, though completely correct grammatically, means absolutely nothing.  Watching politics, life and organizations, you will discover Prof. Chomsky’s sentence applies in way more places than it should, or than you can stand.  Chomsky’s grammatically perfect, though meaningless sentence?

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.



One Response to March 4, National Grammar Day 2013

  1. Randay says:

    I see nothing wrong with “snuck”. For example, “He snuck a few jokes into his speech.” To my mind it sounds better than “sneaked”. I am 60 now and have used it since childhood. As a former teacher, I have used the Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary which hesitantly accepts it. My old Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary(1993)accepts it.

    What else bothers me is the prejudice against the word “ain’t”, which was acceptable a couple of hundred years ago. “I am right, aren’t I?” or “I am right, am I not?” The latter makes sense, but it is the former is absurd but usually used.


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