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  • Take the National Grammar Day Quiz

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    National Grammar Day rolls around again on March 4. It's a time for rejoicing, when everybody goes out and tells someone else what's wrong with their speech or writing. Wear good sneakers, and be prepared to run away really, really fast.

    Last year I worried whether anybody cared about National Grammar Day. I mean, I'm not observant, but there are plenty of people who believe there's only one true way to parse a sentence and who can't wait to celebrate this day of obligation by reading the dictionary (yes, there is only one dictionary, and if you're really orthodox you may only read it facing in the direction of Oxford, or maybe if you're American Orthodox, Springfield, Massachusetts), after which you may go out to photograph three public signs with errors in them and then post them on the internet.

    If you’re as passionate about National Grammar Day as I am, take time out from the solemn festivities to answer this special National Grammar Day quiz:

    1. Can National Grammar Day be observed in the passive voice?
    2. If I see a noun that’s not a person, place, or thing on National Grammar Day, am I supposed to pretend it doesn’t exist?
    3. On National Grammar Day, can I drunk dial Noam Chomsky? Does he text?
    4. Do we light candles on National Grammar Day, or do we light the wicks?
    5. Is National Grammar Day a two-day holiday if I’m bilingual?
    6. What number do I call to report a double negative?
    7. On National Grammar Day, do I get to finally drunk dial Mr. Stark, my old high school English teacher? The one who, when I got up the nerve to ask him what his first name was, said, “My first name is Mister.”
    8. I know a sentence is supposed to be a complete thought, but am I really ungrammatical if I start a thought and then my old English teacher butt dials me and when I get back to my sentence I’ve forgotten what I was going to say? 
    9. Can you end National Grammar Day with a preposition?
    10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, can you get extra credit?
    11. Who really cares about National Grammar Day? Or is it whom?

    T-shirt with the message,

    The first 25 correct responses to the National Grammar Day quiz will win a unique National Grammar Day one-paradigm-fits-all t-shirt jpeg. Just click the “write a response” link below to send in your answers. So you don’t forget, click before midnight tonight. Operators are standing by now. Offer void where prohibited.

#1
freauwaru@gmail.com Mar 2, 2011 11:57 pm
re closeCan National Grammar Day be observed in the passive voice? Yes 1. Nope 2. Give me his number and I'll find ask for you. 3. For safety reasons, and because of university policy, we use candle warmers. 4. No, because you can have poor grammar in more than one language. 5. You can't not call 411. 6. Only if you speak in shibboleths. 7. Is a thought complete when it's in the brain or does it need to be borne onto paper? 8. Can you end National Grammar Day with a preposition? 9. I bet I will have to politely ask. 10. Determine that by singing the Ghostbusters theme song, but remember that it's not grammatical.
#2
dhesse@du.edu Mar 3, 2011 12:16 am
My answers. 1. Celebrate NGD actively only. 2. Yes. 3. Noam Chomskys hash tag is #transformationalisdead. 4. Wicks. 5. No. Grammar is a deep cognitive ability, not a social one. 6. 867-5309. 7. Mr. Stark became Ms. Stark in 1972. You may dial her. 8. True. 9. Only if you have a sentence to put it in. 10. To carelessly split an infinitive is not a matter to cavalierly pursue in any forest. 11. y = mx b. --Doug Hesse
#3
koszko@iinet.net.au Mar 3, 2011 12:27 am
What fun!!! I shall (will?) make sure I observe the Holy Day with all due deference to the Grammar Gods - the true believers are dying out fast....
#4
wziegler@reynolds.edu Mar 3, 2011 7:57 am
1. No, because passive voice is used too much. Oh. Dang. 2. Yes--and vice versa. 3. No you can't because his colorless green iPhone sleeps furiously. 4. Neither. The proper expression is "By who should the candles and/or wicks be lighted by?" 5. Qui knows? 6. Aint't no such number, not nowhere. 7. Only if you can find a phone with an actual dial. Remember, the round things that when a victim in a suspense movie had to use them to call help you knew they were doomed because for every number you had to pull the dial around with your finger rrrrrrrip and wait for the dial to rotate back tictictictictictic and all the time the killer was getting closer, closer.... 8. Actually, that should have read "proceeding in a closer proximity to." 9. Which preposition you want to end with is what that answer depends on. 10. Can't complete this because I had to reluctantly work on my mom's computer and it decided to inexplicably crash and I forgot to regularly save my work so I'd like to possibly have a deadline extension please. 11. Another trick question: They both do. Extra credit question: What should you always ask a structural grammmarian if filling his or her order at McDonald's? Answer: Do you want Fries with that?
#5
JAC@GPSman.com Mar 3, 2011 9:07 am
This is great sport and I covet one of those T-shirts! 1. National Grammar Day may be observed in the passive voice. 2. If you see a noun thats not a person, place, or thing on National Grammar Day, you are supposed to pretend it doesnt exist. 3. On National Grammar Day, you may drunk dial Noam Chomsky. If he texts you, you may need to apply your language acquisition device in order to parse the transformational grammar. 4. On National Grammar Day we light the wicks of candles and allow the candles to contribute to the light. 5. National Grammar Day is singlar and therefore not a two-day holiday. If you're bilingual, you may feel free to speak out of both sides of your mouth. 6. What number you call to report a double negative, doesn't matter. The negatives vanish with the telling! 7. On National Grammar Day, or any other day, you would never drunk dial Mr. Stark, your old high school English teacher, the one who said, My first name is Mister. Your reaction was very similar to the student referred to here: weblink . 8. You know a sentence is supposed to be a complete thought, but am you are not really ungrammatical if you start a thought and then your old English teacher butt dials me and when you get back to your sentence youve forgotten what you were going to say. The sentence, however, is. 9. If you have sufficient stature to avoid ridicule, you may end National Grammar Day with a preposition. 10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, whether I can get extra credit depends entirely on the teacher. 11. Who really cares about National Grammar Day and he becomes quite peeved with anyone calls him "Whom". He has been a doctor for quite some time with credentials from the BBC and one really should know his name well by now.
#6
marjie.stewart@gmail.com Mar 3, 2011 9:19 am
1.Yes, and a good time will be had by all. 2.Only if its invisible. 3.No, he tweets. 4.Both. At both ends. 5.No, but you celebrate twice as much. 6.-1-800-TWO-NOES 7.Dial 1-800-MR-MISTERS 8.Only if it creates a run-on fragment. 9.I prefer to end it with a proposition. 10.Yes, but not enough to improve your grade. 11.My sister, whom is a grammar cop up with who I will not put.
#7
amare@bellsouth.net Mar 3, 2011 10:25 am
1. Yes. Let's activate the passive voice by allowing NGD to be observed. 2. You could always use a pronoun, which is an noun that has lost its amateur status (from Calvin and Hobbes cartoon). 3. Chomsky tweets. 4. We light the candles synecdochally (a word?). 5. Only if you close schools for two days, like they do down here for mardi gras. 6. 555-1212 7. Facebook him (noun -> verb) 8. Beats me. 9. But of course you can, especially if you are from Wisconsin. I am going to the store now, Dennis. Do you want to come with? 10. To intentionally split an infinitive is always evil, my friend. 11. I really care, he does, and she does too, but them others don't.
#8
delmar70@swbell.net Mar 3, 2011 11:09 am
1. No. 2. Yes. 3. No and IDK 4.Depends on who we are. 5.Yes. 6. -911 7. Yes. 8.Yes. 9.Yes. 10. No. 11. Who
#9
jmc8157@kennesaw.edu Mar 3, 2011 11:19 am
1.I dont know, and I dont care. Why dont you do it for me? Thanks. 2.No, because in this case YOU dont exist. 3.No, because drunk dial is not an officially recognized verb. However, to find out if he texts, Ill have to call him. 4.You light matches, and they do the rest. 5.Only in Arizona. 6.1-800-no-never 7.His first name IS Mister. I looked up his birth certificate, which I found in Kenya. 8.Only if the object of the preposition is tavern. 9.No, but you can save 15 percent on auto insurance with Geico. 10.Sister Ursula would care, and if she were alive now, she would make me diagram a page of Marquez. And I would do it, just to show her.
#10
raphie_d@yahoo.com Mar 3, 2011 12:49 pm
1. Can National Grammar Day be observed in the passive voice? Yes. 2. If I see a noun thats not a person, place, or thing on National Grammar Day, am I supposed to pretend it doesnt exist? I don't know what you're talking about. What noun? 3. On National Grammar Day, can I drunk dial Noam Chomsky? Does he text? You could certainly attempt to drunk dial Noam Chomsky, but he only responds to grammatically correct text messages. 4. Do we light candles on National Grammar Day, or do we light the wicks? Neither. You set off fireworks! 5. Is National Grammar Day a two-day holiday if Im bilingual? Only in Canada. 6. What number do I call to report a double negative? Oxford University Press: Customer Service- 1-800-445-9714 7. On National Grammar Day, do I get to finally drunk dial Mr. Stark, my old high school English teacher? The one who, when I got up the nerve to ask him what his first name was, said, My first name is Mister. Certainly. I'm sure Mr. Mister Stark would be delighted to hear from one of his favorite students! 8. I know a sentence is supposed to be a complete thought, but am I really ungrammatical if I start a thought and then my old English teacher butt dials me and when I get back to my sentence Ive forgotten what I was going to say? That would depend on how you were conveying said thought. Were you speaking to Mr. Mister Stark, texting a friend on a mobile telephone, or hand-writing a letter to Mr. Noam Chomsky? 9. Can you end National Grammar Day with a preposition? No. However, it is very possible--even encouraged--to end National Grammar Day with an expletive. Yay! 10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, can you get extra credit? Only in the presence of no less than three grammarians and a copy of the OED. 11. Who really cares about National Grammar Day? Or is it whom? Grammar is like a seat-belt; everyone should use it--correctly--to safely navigate.
#11
hm_cauley@yahoo.com Mar 3, 2011 1:21 pm
1. Can National Grammar Day be observed in the passive voice? Never! It's a celebration, not a funeral. Put your whole heart and first-person voice into it. 2. If I see a noun thats not a person, place, or thing on National Grammar Day, am I supposed to pretend it doesnt exist? No! Immediately call CNN. You'll at least make the "vote on one of these three stories" segment. 3. On National Grammar Day, can I drunk dial Noam Chomsky? Does he text? You could, but it would be more fun (and potentially instructive) to call up the local newspaper and point out their persistent and incorrect use of "fewer" and "less." 4. Do we light candles on National Grammar Day, or do we light the wicks? Mechanically, wicks. Expressively, candles. Your choice. 5. Is National Grammar Day a two-day holiday if Im bilingual? Mais oui! Faites samedi le "Jour de la Grammaire!" Another round of Chteauneuf-du-Pape for my grammatically correct colleagues! 6. What number do I call to report a double negative? Zero-zero, of course. 7. On National Grammar Day, do I get to finally drunk dial Mr. Stark, my old high school English teacher? The one who, when I got up the nerve to ask him what his first name was, said, My first name is Mister. Absolutely! Thank him profusely for beating the correct way to use a semicolon into your little brain. (And let's hope he overlooks that split infinitive in the first line and the sentence fragment that follows....) 8. I know a sentence is supposed to be a complete thought, but am I really ungrammatical if I start a thought and then my old English teacher butt dials me and when I get back to my sentence Ive forgotten what I was going to say? Nah, everyone's entitled to be speechless at some point. (You obviously don't have that problem - your issue seems to be run-on sentences.) 9. Can you end National Grammar Day with a preposition? But of course! That old rule was thrown out with the book that included, "Never start a sentence with 'but.'" 10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, can you get extra credit? As a teacher, I'd be delighted to give extra credit, particularly since most students wouldn't know a split infinitive if it hit them over the head like a fallen tree branch, so I'm in little danger of having to pony up. 11. Who really cares about National Grammar Day? Or is it whom? To use 'who' or to use 'whom'...that is the question for those who never got a good grasp of nominative and objective cases. What a sorry lot, condemned to say "me and my friend" for the rest of their natural lives. We can only pity them.
#12
critical.nothing@gmail.com Mar 3, 2011 2:32 pm
1. No! 2. Yes. 3. You certainly CAN! 4. The wicks. 5. Unfortunately not. 6. 1-800-FAIL 7. You most definitely do! Unless you want me to for you... 8. Yes. 9. Which preposition? 10. Probably not. 11. Anyone worth anything does, that's who!
#13
Carol.s.warner@gmail.com Mar 3, 2011 2:36 pm
1. Yes, but it won't be as interesting. 2. Yes, it's probably some abstract idea that will distract you from other NGD activities. 3. Sure, drunk dial him, but don't expect him to send you a LMAO text -- he likes structured language. 4. NGD purists do not use candles. We prefer to celebrate by lighting the wick in a dish of lamp oil. 5. Of course NGD is a two-day holiday if for bilinguals. We deserve two days to celebrate. 6. Call 411 and give them the correct information without using a double negative. 7. Yes, you can drunk dial Mr. Stark. And remember, if you're bilingual, you can drunk dial him on both days. Yeah, that will be fun for Mister, won't it? 8. If your old English teacher has the nerve to interrupt your thought, get even by drunk dialing her when you remember the rest of it. 9. Well you can end NGD with a preposition, but what would you want to do that for? 10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it ... that just proves that more editors are needed. 11. You care and I care -- and who else matters?
#14
dchristmas@gpo.gov Mar 3, 2011 2:36 pm
If you're offering a "Grand Prize", the comment, above, via hm_cauley, deserves to win it!
#15
dchristmas@gpo.gov Mar 3, 2011 2:42 pm
And, yes, I do know that the comma should be contained within the quotation marks, but I don't like that rule and I openly defy it. You may castigate me on National Punctuation Day!
#16
jeture@gmail.com Mar 3, 2011 2:44 pm
1. Can National Grammar Day be observed in the passive voice? --Linguistically, yes, but preferably in the active voice, as in standing up for good grammar! 2. If I see a noun thats not a person, place, or thing on National Grammar Day, am I supposed to pretend it doesnt exist? --Yes, if it's a bastard invented gerund like "visioning," as in "we are holding a visioning workshop" - I actually saw this on a city council poster once. ARRRRGGGHH!!!! 3. On National Grammar Day, can I drunk dial Noam Chomsky? Does he text? --Suit yourself. I've got more constructive things to do. 4. Do we light candles on National Grammar Day, or do we light the wicks? --The wicks (of the candles). 5. Is National Grammar Day a two-day holiday if Im bilingual? --No, but you can celebrate twice as hard! 6. What number do I call to report a double negative? --1-800-GRAMMAR 7. On National Grammar Day, do I get to finally drunk dial Mr. Stark, my old high school English teacher? The one who, when I got up the nerve to ask him what his first name was, said, My first name is Mister. --See answer to #3. Of course, you haven't mentioned if Mr. Stark is still among the living. One assumes he is or you wouldn't waste time dreaming about pranking him. 8. I know a sentence is supposed to be a complete thought, but am I really ungrammatical if I start a thought and then my old English teacher butt dials me and when I get back to my sentence Ive forgotten what I was going to say? --No, you're merely distracted. Easily distracted, I might add. 9. Can you end National Grammar Day with a preposition? --If you're Winston Churchill, or if you are writing a formal document, no. In casual conversation, yes, otherwise you sound like a hopeless pedant. 10. If an infinitive splits in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, can you get extra credit? --How will YOU know, either? 11. Who really cares about National Grammar Day? Or is it whom? --It's "who," and anyone who actually paid attention in grade-school English should care!
#17
c.m.stewart@msn.com Mar 3, 2011 3:01 pm
1. Use passive voice only when writing authoritative or scholarly text. 2. Pretend? All nouns are persons, places or things. No exceptions. Ever. 3. Depends on how drunk you are. Chomsky "text messages." 4. In the interest of inclusiveness, we light candles and wicks. 5. Yes. And it's a year-long holiday is you are monolingual in Esperanto. 6. 1-800-368-2536. 7. Sure. His number is listed under "Mister Stark. 8. Your "English teacher butt dials" you? Um, I forgot what I was going to answer. 9. Of course you can. But you may not. 10. Forest-specific infinitive-splitting extra credit is for card-carrying tree-huggers only. 11. Horton cares. Horton is a "who." (Or is that "Horton hears a Who"?)
#18
hnoyes@siu.edu Mar 3, 2011 3:15 pm
1. To be observed, National Grammar Day can. 2. Wouldn't the college students be offended? 3. I'm pretty sure he's Amish. 4. I've got a Clue: Flaaaames, Flames, Flames all over my face! 5. The more the merrier! 6. 2 2 = a positive (I think) 7. If you've been holding a grudge, then you need to confront him. 8. Perhaps you could insert a colon. 9. National Grammar Day Lives On! 10. Only if you bring it in for show and tell. 11. It's "who".
#19
skeffingtonj@macewan.ca Mar 3, 2011 3:29 pm
1. It can if the passive voice is necessary or appropriate to the context of the observation. 2. No. You should instead explain to all and sundry why it is a noun and how to identify noun phrases by their context. 3. Sure, why not. You should also ask him about the grammar of texting. 4. We acknowledge the imprecision of the English language and light the candles. 5. Of course! 6. 1-800-dont-not 7. Yes, but it's better if you can find an error that he marked incorrectly at the time. 8. You are not ungrammatical as a person, but the sentence might end up that way if you don't revise it. 9. It'd be better not to. 10. Extra credit is not allowed. 11. Nerds care. And of course it isn't whom in that context!
#20
marianne-peters@comcast.net Mar 3, 2011 3:33 pm
1. No, only in simple declarative sentences. 2. No, you must sing the whole "Noun" episode of Schoolhouse Rock, accompanying yourself on a ukelele. With your feet. 3. Only if you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying ... in passive voice. 4. We light our Stanley Fish texts on fire. 5. Only in Canada. 6. Call Norman Vincent Peale twice and hang up when he answers. 7. Only if you see him in the grocery store wearing tennis shoes, a two-day beard, and concealing alcohol under a ragged sweatshirt with his alma mater emblazoned across the front. 8. Yes. Butt-dialing is no excuse. 9. Depends on what kind of a mood you're in. 10. I don't believe in extra credit. Why don't you just do the work I assigned you in the first place? Do you think the syllabus (lovingly prepared just for you) doesn't apply to your sorry self? Do I look like a vending machine, spitting out points as if they had no value whatsoever? And do you think I have time in my busy life to grade your pathetic attempts at passing grade in my class? Get out of my office. 11. Ask not for whom the National Grammar Day bell tolls -- it tolls for thee. 11.
#21
jeremyclivehuggins@gmail.com Mar 3, 2011 5:23 pm
In the body of your post, you write, " . . . [W]hen everybody goes out and tells someone else what's wrong with their speech or writing." If "everybody" is an indefinite pronoun and is, thus, singular, why use "their" later in the sentence? Has this rule changed? I ask sincerely.
#22
dchristmas@gpo.gov Mar 3, 2011 5:44 pm
P.S. I took one of the prizes ... only 24 left!
#23
sperrault@ucdavis.edu Mar 3, 2011 6:25 pm
1. It has been, therefore it can be. Or did you mean "may it"? 2. Depends. Is it your imaginary friend? Do you want the friendship to last? If yes and yes, then no. If yes and no, then yes. If no and NA, it's your choice. 3. Only if you share his number with me. 4. Some people just get lit, generally before texting Noam Chomsky. 5. S. Yes. . . Do I get four days off now? 6. Any number, but only if you dial it in binary. 7. S. Yes. . . 8. Here's the deal: You promise never to talk to me about your old English teacher's butt again, and you can do whatever you want with your sentences. Deal? 9. What for? 10. Always. 11. Well, if this posts in time, there are at least 24 of us (counting you, Dennis, as #1).
#24
sperrault@ucdavis.edu Mar 3, 2011 6:45 pm
Drat! The special characters didn't come through. There should be four versions of yes, in four languages. Maybe National Grammar Day doesn't want to be multilingual after all.
#25
juliamunroemartin@gmail.com Mar 4, 2011 8:14 am
Yes (or no) to all of the above except #11 which is "who."
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