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Happy Grammar Day!

Febbraio 2014
Il 4 marzo è grammar day negli Stati Uniti. Perché proprio questo giorno? perché March 4th si legge come march forth, marciamo in avanti, e l’ideatrice di questa ricorrenza ritiene che gli americani abbiano parecchia strada da fare per migliorare la grammatica e parlare in modo corretto.

di Talitha Linehan

File audio:

Martha Brockenbrough
Martha Brockenbrough

Is it "there," "their," or "they’re?" What’s the difference between "who’s" and "whose?" And what’s a gerund? These are just some of the questions people might be asking on National Grammar Day (NGD), which Americans celebrate on March 4th. Author and founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (which has the curious acronym SPOGG) Martha Brockenbrough established the first NGD in 2008.
She chose March 4th because it is a grammatical pun. "March Fourth" is a date, but “march forth” is an imperative meaning “Let’s all march forward (and improve our language).” Today people all over the country celebrate NGD by taking part in grammar games. These include a national online competition in which contestants tweet haikus - Japanese poems of 17 syllables – based on grammatical rules.


Martha has had a very varied professional career. She has taught high school students while working as a teacher, interviewed celebrities while working as a journalist, and written questions for the popular board game Trivial Pursuit. And she has just written her fourth book, a young adult novel called Devine Intervention.
The author now lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. She admits that she recently corrected her husband’s grammar in front of the kids adding, “I know it makes me sound like a jerk!”




Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

March 4th is National Grammar Day in the United States. It was founded in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, a teacher and writer based in Seattle, Washington.
English language speakers have traditionally been less attentive to grammar than other nationalities, but Martha Brockenbrough believes that things reached a low point during the presidency of George W. Bush:

Martha Brockenbrough (Standard American accent)

Lots of people commented on his language and, even though he went to some of the best schools in the country, he used words incorrectly and had pretty bad grammar. And this was considered a sign of how trustworthy he was and how just like “regular folk” he was. And, to me, it was a disaster. Take his presidency however you want, but to say that someone is more trustworthy because they’re being sloppy with language, they don't care about words, they’ve taken their education and not made much of it, I think it’s terrible. I don’t think anyone would ever go see a brain surgeon who had been lax about his or her studies. You wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who didn’t know the first thing about fixing engines.
And so I think that leaders and everybody else should know how to use language, so that we can say what we want to say and also so that we can understand what other people are saying. I think it’s incredibly important, and I honestly don’t know why that’s not the norm in the United States.


So what advice does she have for people who want to improve their grammar skills?

Martha Brockenbrough

Read. Read more. Read books. Read books that you love. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read poetry. And then try some writing 'cause that’s how you practice. You can, of course, practice in speech, but try writing. Keep a journal. And then, at the end of the year, look back at some of those early things and think, “OK, could I have written that better? Do I know more now?” And I think once you start seeing the progress that you make by filling your head with words and putting some of those words down on paper, you’ll get excited about the prospect and about your potential.


But does she have any grammatical errors that she finds particularly irritating?

Martha Brockenbrough

I do. And it’s a really petty one. But I can’t stand it when people write “your” – Y-O-U-R – when they mean “you’re” – Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E. I can hear the difference in how the words are said and so, when I read it, it sounds bad and it causes me great psychic pain


The illustrations on these pages offer typical examples of grammatical errors made by mother-tongue English speakers. They (meaning the illustrations, not the errors!) were kindly provided by Grammarly®, a company that aims to improve communication among the world’s native and non-native English writers. Their main product, the Grammarly® Editor, corrects spelling mistakes, checks for more than 250 common grammar errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and provides citation suggestions.
For more info please visit www.grammarly.com

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March Forth! Marciamo in avanti! Martha Brockenbrough ha scelto il 4 marzo come data per National Grammar Day perché, in inglese almeno, è un gioco di parole con un messaggio grammaticale. March è il mese di marzo ma come verbo to march significa marciare. March Fourth significa il 4 marzo, mentre march forth significa “marciamo in avanti”.

Regular folk.
Gente normale. Si potrebbe dire ordinary people (il titolo di un film del 1980, tradotto in italiano come Gente comune) ma Martha Brockenbrough dice regular folk che è un’espressione texana più colorita. Così prende in giro l’idea che George Bush (il figlio di una famiglia patrizia) fosse “uno come noi”.

Your/you’re. Questo è l’errore che davvero fa imbestialire Brockenbrough. Un italiano, abituato a studiare la grammatica e la sintassi a scuola, difficilmente farebbe un errore così in inglese, e invece è un errore comunissimo tra i madrelingua. Idem per l’errore citato all’inizio dell’articolo: la confusione tra their, they’re e there. Probabilmente perché si tratta di parole che hanno lo stesso suono, e perché nei paesi di lingua inglese si fa comunque meno attenzione alla grammatica che da noi.