The Atlantic Wire, “How Do We Love Thee, Grammar? Count the Ways on Grammar Day”

March 4, 2013

Jen Doll, “How Do We Love Thee, Grammar? Count the Ways on Grammar Day” (The Atlantic Wire, Mar. 4, 2013)

Linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer was one of the judges for this year’s Grammar Day Haiku Contest (stay tuned for the results, which will be announced later today by Mark Allen. Update: The winning haiku is here!). Zimmer told me he hopes Grammar Day can be about more just curmudgeonly nitpicking. “I have to admit that much of the public talk about grammar fills me with sorrow rather than joy, because so often the conversation is dominated by those clinging to outmoded or flat-out bogus rules, and expressing outrage at anyone who doesn’t obey those rules,” he says. “Cranky indignation becomes the dominant tone about grammatical issues when the ‘peevologists‘ hold sway.” (He points out, too, that certain peeves over spelling, punctuation, and word choice aren’t about grammar at all. While such linguistic peeves certainly fall into the trade of a good copy editor, they’re not technically grammatical. Whoops.)

Zimmer says, “Let’s use National Grammar Day as an opportunity to think about what grammar actually is, and to be open to differing opinions about grammatical propriety. If grammar evokes anxiety or crankiness, relax for a day! Don’t get hung up on the rise of singular ‘they’ or the decline of ‘whom.’ Don’t fret about the correct placement of ‘only,’ or whether ‘none’ needs to take a singular verb. Instead, embrace the living, breathing grammar of English in all of its varieties.”

Read the rest here.

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