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Finally, a sensible suggestion for National Grammar Day. Jan Freeman, who writes a savvy and sensible column on language for The Boston Globe, suggests that the advocates of sound grammar should indulge in “the official Grammar Day drink, the Grammartini: a classic martini, straight up, renamed for the day's festivities. A couple of these are guaranteed to soften your attitude toward other people's usage sins.”

Now, veering off into the technic of the martini risks drawing the attention of martini obsessives, next to whom grammar quibblers look almost Unitarian in their inclusiveness. So, as we strive to establish a reasonable prescriptivism on grammar, we can explore a reasonable prescriptivism on this classic cocktail. 

I myself usually take a martini on the rocks with a twist (Sorry, Jan), but I’m not a bigot. Straight up is fine. Olives are fine. Five to one is fine. Six to one is OK but perhaps a little extreme. The drink should have some vermouth in it — the original drink, after all, was something like 2-1 gin-to-vermouth.

It is — never mind those Bond films — stirred, not shaken.

And as a tolerant and open-minded liberal, I don’t object to people who make martinis with vodka, even though the gin purists will shudder at the thought.

But it is necessary and advisable to draw the line somewhere. Not every drink that can be poured into a martini glass can be called a martini. A drink with apple juice in it is not a martini. A drink with pineapple in it is not a martini. A drink with chocolate in it is not a martini. You are welcome to swill any kind of muck that you can slide down your gullet, but unless it has been made with gin (OK, or vodka) and dry vermouth, you have no business calling it a martini.

That settled, fellow grammarians, I suggest we assemble a week from tomorrow at a comfortable saloon with a staff that understands the subtleties of the cocktail, order a proper martini — oh, why not, make it two — and celebrate a language in which drink is both a noun and a verb.



Posted by John McIntyre at 1:59 PM | | Comments (2)


National Grammar Day, and the fervor that I imagine will surround it, has sparked in me a desire to begin talking more exclusively about grammar and punctuation in a way that nay-says the traditional mindset of prescriptivism (not to say that I'm not one of those types). I think there ought to be rules, but one need not beat everyone else over the head if they misuse from time to time.

I just realized that March 4 takes place during my vacation week, which not only will contain no proper grammar usage, but is also Daytona Beach's Bike Week (precisely why I picked that week in the first place).

I intend to spend it drinking not a martini (I prefer my gin with tonic and my backyard hybrid limes) but most likely a beer at some infamous Daytona bar -- maybe The Last Resort, where they arrested Aileen Wuornos.

Oh yes, it shall be interesting. . .and I don't intend to correct any of the Outlaws (u/c cq) I may encounter on their usage, or of the fact that it should say "1 percenter" on their vests and not 1%er. . .

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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