Archive for March 4th, 2012

March 4, 2012

The Atheist Hymnal, vol.1

Thought I’d regularly post  a few songs that would appeal to unbelievers. It’s okay if they appeal to believers too. If you have any suggestions for songs put them in your comments. A link would be nice. I’ll start with  this from Steve Martin.


A personal favorite from Frank Zappa. ” Dumb All Over”



I you’re old enough  to remember Tom Lehrer, you’re really fucking old. I remember him.

One of the coolest guys who ever lived, Paul Newman,  sings “Plastic Jesus”


Someone  has suggested that the is son be  the anthem of Atheists. I  down with that. here’s Tom Petty.


That’s it for  today. More vol. to come  Yes, I promise some Tim Minchin.



March 4, 2012

Happy National Grammar Day!

Language is something to celebrate, and March 4 is the perfect day to do it. It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!

Every  March 4th is National Grammar Day.  I mentioned this fact  to  some students when I was substitute teaching on Friday and the following exchange:

Me: Sunday is National Grammar Day.

Student1: You mean grammar has its own day. What’s that all about?

Student 2: It means that you  have to speak and write  correctly on that day, stupid.

Student3: I ain’t doin that!

Me: You should  use good and correct grammar every day, not just on that day.

Student 4: Do we get Monday off?

Me: (sigh)

I am reminded of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, probably apocryphal. When  an editor chastised him for a prepositional ending , he allegedly replied. “Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” There are several variations on this story and Churchill probably didn’t say it. I tend to agree with the sentiment. Strict grammarians and people who go about correcting other folk’s grammar are a pain in the ass.

The winner of  the 2011 National Grammar Day Haiku Contest

Spell-checkers won’t catch
You’re mistaken homophones
Scattered hear and their

Gord Roberts



That doesn’t mean that grammar isn’t important. In these days of “tweeting” and “texting”  the teaching of grammar should be taken seriously. Grammar and punctuation serve to clarify meaning in our communications. A misused word or a misplaced comma can  be a serious thing  daily communication  Diplomacy, law, politics, journalism all require clarity of language. I have often told my students that the use of correct grammar  can change the way others view you.

If you are competing for a job and the selection process has narrowed the choice to you and one other person, something as simple as  the misuse of grammar can make the difference. People who do not have mastery of the language are often perceived as less intelligent. The perception may be wrong but it still exists and may cost you the job, all other things being equal.

Even in  casual  communication, much can hang on a misused word. Consider these two sentences:

You know your shit!

You know, you’re shit!

Situational grammar obviously applies. You speak  and write more casually with friends and family than you do in the workplace or the classroom. I would never expect students to use the same level of grammar in the hallway with their friends as I would  expect them to use in the classroom. I’m not even a stickler in classroom discussions, as long as meaning is clear.

National Grammar Day even has its own song, ” March Forth”


National Grammar Day has its own web presence, a site loaded with information and links  to helpful and useful grammar and writing pages . It’s fun, and there are useful tools for  teachers  to use in the classroom. Check it out.

National Grammar Day founder, Martha Brockenbrough, shares her grammartini recipe to spice up your celebrations:

  1. 2 1/2 oz gin
  2. 1/2 oz dry vermouth (The ratio is what’s important.)
  3. 1 green olive (Some people use lemon. I say, what is up with that?)
  4. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. (I use a Value Village cocktail shaker.)
  5. Stir for 30 seconds. (You can also shake, but John McIntyre says this bruises the gin. Who wants to be charged with gin abuse?)
  6. Strain into a martini glass.
  7. Drink