There’s a bit of an exciting kerfuffle that’s erupted regarding National Grammar Day, which is next Tuesday, March 4.
A few weeks back, over at You Don’t Say, the level-headed John McIntyre described his apprehension about the day:
Shall we see people who say “between you and I” clapped into stocks in the public square? Will insurgents sweep through markets, tearing down signs announcing TOMATO’S and CUKE’S? . . . Or will the participants take a more civilized and informed approach? Perhaps to sit down with that high school English teacher who forbade splitting infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions, explaining gently that there is nothing wrong with either in English.
This week, Jan Freeman took up the case in her column in the Boston Globe, as did Nathan Bierma at the Chicago Tribune. Over on Language Log, they seem to be taking the whole thing quite seriously, with two unflattering posts devoted to making fun of the day and peppered with gratuitous pot shots.
And it takes my mind off thinking about the grammar loonies — the whining pedants who imagine that all informal usage should be made formal, and no infinitives must ever be split, and everybody who uses non-standard American dialects in any context needs to straighten up and fly right. (All right, all right, fly correctly.)
Meanwhile, back at SPOGG, National Grammar Day founder Martha Brockenbrough replies:
The blog Language Log cites Bierma without checking any of his source material and concludes that we are grammar loonies. They have also concluded National Grammar Day is a nasty holiday. So to them, we say perhaps a grammartini will make you less crabby. We have posted a recipe right here. We might also recommend the high-fiber turkey chili. It might dislodge whatever’s stopping up your colons.
MRP for one is perplexed by how this situation has evolved. I’m not a linguist, but I read Language Log and other linguistics blogs because they are interesting, instructive, and entertaining. I read SPOGG and related blogs because they are interesting, instructive, and entertaining. Hmm.
The debate has focused on some of Bierma’s less flattering descriptions (for example, National Grammar Day is a “witch hunt”), but he does make a couple of good points. For instance:
Sometimes it is best to follow the conventions of standard written English, as quirky, arbitrary and illogical as they often are (explain to me why “aren’t I?” is considered grammatically correct?).
But most of the time — when we’re among friends, family, or anyone we feel comfortable with — we should simply let our hair down and allow our unpolished emissions of language to burst out of us in all their untidy splendor.
MRP is proud to be a National Grammar Day participating blog. As such, I intend to embrace the spirit of the day, which to me is to celebrate the joy and complexity of language, and our shared interest in it.
And hand me my grammartini, please. Shaken, not stirred.