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National Grammar Day is tomorrow

Naturally you will want to tune in for the thrilling conclusion of “GRAMMARNOIR 3: The wages of syntax,” which will be posted tomorrow morning.

And you will want to see what is going on at the official National Grammar Day website.

And because language and intelligent commentary on language are important to you, you will want to know more about the status of Ben Zimmer’s “On Language” column in The New York Times, which was first eighty-sixed, and then, after the outcry became audible on the ramparts where Hugo Lindgren, the editor of the magazine, operates, was put on “hiatus.” If you have not complained about this deeply misguided decision, here are addresses to which you may, and should, write. If you have already written, and are curious what The Times means by “hiatus,” today or tomorrow would be an excellent time to make that language inquiry.

NYT Magazine letters to the editor:

NYT Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren:

NYT public editor Arthur Brisbane:

Beyond that, tomorrow, as always, don’t correct people’s grammar or pronunciation publicly. That’s rude. You’re allowed personal tastes and preferences, but harboring and feeding pet peeves is not healthy. Respect the dialects of English you don’t use yourself. Watch out for shibboleths; they’re everywhere, and they’ll trip you up. Learn a new word every chance you get. Honor and esteem people like Ben Zimmer and Jan Freeman and Mignon Fogarty and the merry band at Language Log and all the others who write about English with intelligence, affection, and force.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:49 AM | | Comments (10)


Oops!..... Didn't see that sneaky shibboleth coming.

Hmm.... National Grammar Day, eh?

Here ye! I say it's about time that the oft-maligned, four-times-married, 5-time Emmy winner, portrayer of TV's Dr. Fraiser Crane for almost twenty years, Kelsey Grammer, gets some long-overdue respect.

What's that? Oh, tomorrow's National Grammar Day has nothing to do w/ actor/ comedian Kelsey Grammer? Different spelling?

Hmm...... never mind.


Luckily, spelling has nothing to do with grammar, so no harm done.

I'm a big fan of Mignon's. She has helped me through many a sticky wicket.

No, sorry, you can't be helped through a sticky wicket - what would that be? Helped you survive on a sticky wicket, yep. In view of England's state in the World Cup I should shut up about cricket idioms, I suppose. Beaten, OK. But beaten by Ireland? And so magnificently? Oh 'eck.


Sounds like you are still smarting a tad from England's recent World Cup Cricket Championship defeat by team ireland.? Alas, this too shall pass. Sounds like you were a good sport about the whole affair, and gave credit where it was due.

I, for one, on this side of the Pond, hadn't a clue that the Irish squad triumphed over your English lads, but it must have been an especially crushing blow to lose to a fellow U.K. opponent, rather than say the perennially strong Indians, or Pakistanis. (Perhaps the England vs. Ireland match was a regional, i.e., U.K., qualifier---winner to advance to play other foreign squads, in a knock-out elimination format? Was that the scenario, Picky?)

I'm guessing that in the parlance of "The Sport of Kings"---horse racing--- a "sloppy track" would be kind of comparable to a "sticky wicket" in cricket, but perhaps more extreme in the mud and moisture department? I know a race horse that runs consistently well on a "sloppy track" is termed a "mudder".

I fondly recall a very funny "Seinfeld" episode (Do you get "Seinfeld" re-runs in England?) where doofus Kramer was desperately trying to get some inside-track handicapping tips on a few highly-touted race horse, and got into a discussion w/ a couple of seasoned horse wagering aficionados.

Kramer delivered a hilarious, almost Abbot & Costello-esque "Who's on First"-like spiel, describing one particular filly (female horse) that happened to be running that day when heavy rains were in the forecast.

Kramer goes, "Yeah. that gal's a real 'mudder'. And her 'mudder' was a 'mudder', and her 'fodder' was a 'mudder'. And before that her 'grand-fodder' was a 'mudder', and wouldn't you just know it, her 'grand-mudder' was a 'mudder'. Yup, one 'mudder' after 'anudder'. You betcha!."

IMO, Kramer's 'clear-as-mud' elucidation on the unique pedigree of that particular thoroughbred equine was priceless. But i digress.

Picky, hope you are doing well these days. Always great to hear form you on this site, and take in your sundry musings, and astute observations, seasoned, of course, w/ your spicy wit.

Ta! Ta!


No, Alex, at the risk of boring everyone silly, the World Cup is played between the top ten teams and the four top minor teams - this time Ireland, Canada (yep, Canada), Kenya and Netherlands. At the current stage they are divided into two groups, with each team in the group playing all the others. And of course the first thing to do to ensure you get through to the quarter finals us to make sure you beat the two minor teams in your group.

Oh dear. Of course every World Cup there is an upset of some sort, but this one was amazing. England batted first and made a very strong total, but then Ireland just mopped the ground with us, Kevin O'Brien playing what's reckoned to be the greatest World Cup innings ever seen.

One good thing is that the result should strengthen cricket in Ireland, where at present it is very much a minor sport, of course.

Oh, and when you say fellow-UK, I should hastily point out that the Irish team represents the whole island of Ireland, not just the bit within the UK. Phew! Glad I pointed that out before someone from the Republic read your comment, Alex.

Top o' the mornin', Picky,

I get your earlier point......... wouldn't want those uppity Ulstermen to get too swell-headed now, would we? Those Portrushers can be a feisty lot if the least bit aggrieved. HA!

And I could see where those proud 'Republicans' to the south (adamant non-U.K.ers to a fault) would take major umbrage w/ my unwitting (I'm occasionally a bit of a dimwit) exclusion of their contribution to the all-Ireland World Cup cricket side.

Hmm............ my home-and-native-land---Canada--- actually made the grade in the World Cup play-downs, albeit from a "minor", second tier bracket?

And the Netherlands? Insisting they wear those awkward wooden clogs on the cricket pitch must have been a huge handicap for the sporting, but outmatched Hollanders? HA!

"Holy 'sticky wicket' Batman! Next thing we know, Belfast will be fielding (or icing?) an entry in to the National Hockey League. Will wonders never cease, oh caped crusader?"

Wow! Go and peacefully resolve the long-standing animus between the Irish Protestants, and Catholics and pretty much anything seems possible these days. Begosh-and-begorah!

Picky, thanks for your lucid (perhaps boring to some. HA!) World Cup Cricket team qualifying explanation, and a happy St. Paddy's Day to you. (A few weeks hence, I admit.) Hopefully you'll raise a wee dram, or two of Bushnell's finest brew to the legendary saint who allegedly drove all the vipers out of Eire. Well, at least the legless ones. HA!


P.S.: Still curious if the "Seinfeld" TV sitcom is carried on British 'tele'? Inquiring, simple minds would like to know. HA!

No, I think I'm right in saying Seinfeld isn't currently showing here, but I've heard Sky may be rerunning it later in the year. It really wasn't the enormous hit here that it was in the States. (Admission: I've never seen it).


Hmm.... I'm not too sure the rather quirky "Seinfeld" sitcom would tickle your fancy, or your funny bone, for that matter.

The "Seinfeld" 'brand' of humor might, indeed, be somewhat of an acquired taste w/ uninitiated Brit TV audiences. The regular ensemble cast , w/ Jerry Seinfeld as the kind of alpha male character in the series, focuses to a large degree on situational, ironic, put-down humor, and Jerry's closest friends---Geroge, Elaine and Kramer---are all hyper-self-absorbed, (bordering on narcissistic), neurotic, ofttimes obnoxious New Yorkers, which could likely grate on some British viewers, who may already harbor a rather jaded, or jaundiced view of most Yanks. Just sayin'.

The Cosmo Kramer character is sort of the show's 'default' doofus, rarely employed, weirdo of the odd-ball cast, who relies on his slap-stick-antic physicality and freakish demeanor to elicit laughs. He sports a rather frizzed-out, gravity-defying hairdo, stands in the 6-foot-four range, w/ a wiry 'bod', and has an aquiline schnoz that could probably open a sardine tin, in a pinch. HA!

Hopefully, you get the opportunity to catch at least one episode of this almost 10-year-running, hugely popular sitcom.

Shifting gears a tad....... were you a fan of the BBC One dramatic crime series, "Wallander", starring Kenneth Branagh as the eponymous harried police inspector, who IMO, half the time seemed to be wrestling w/ his own personal demons, while trying his darndest to solve mostly exceedingly gruesome crime scenarios?

I really loved this well-crafted series, and felt Branagh was exceptional in the Wallander copper role, even though he was a bit hard on the eyes w/ his perpetually disheveled, five o'clock shadow, bed-head look. Sleep depravation will do that to you.

Rumors have it that a third run of perhaps 6 episodes of new "Wallander" 's is currently in the works, which is great news for us "Wallander" aficionados.

Recently, our U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has been rerunning the marvelous BBC "Prime Suspect" series, from the initial episode onward, w/ of course, the versatile Helen Mirren as the resolute, but ever angst-ridden DCI, Jane Tennison. I'll likely check out some of these episodes for a second gander. Unlike police inspector Wallander, Dame Helen, as inspector Tennison, is hardly hard on the peepers. HA! She not what you would call a classic beauty, but boy does she exude understated sex appeal, and true feminine moxie in whatever role she tackles.

Love to hear your take on our Prof. McI. final installment of his Grammarnoir twisted tale. Might as well retitle it, "True Brit". HA!

Inspector Fabian......... how droll.


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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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