Sunday, 19 April 2015

Boston Strong: Vocabulary… and a Grammar Conundrum

Some of the words in the article on the Boston Marathon and Patriots' Day are defined in a Quizlet. You can find it at the following link:

You can see whether a story on the Patriots'/Patriot's Day commemoration comes from Maine or  Massachusetts  by observing the apostrophe: if the text says Patriots', then it will be talking about Massachusetts; if it says Patriot's, then it will be talking about Maine.

Minuteman monument,
Lexington MA
This is because the punctuation defines the day in Massachusetts as  belonging to or pertaining to many patriots (patriots'). Maine, for some reason, uses punctuation that defines it as a day of, or pertaining to, one patriot (patriot's)… presumably "The Patriot" as a concept rather than an actual person.

(Wisconsin, which observes Patriots' Day--Massachusetts' punctuation--as a school observance day, defines patriots as follows: "“Patriots were colonists who wanted independence from British rule. Most hoped to find peaceful ways to settle their differences with England. When the British decided to look for Samuel Adams and John Hancock [two leaders of the revolutionary movement], who were hiding in Concord, Paul Revere and Billy Dawes rode through the night warning other Patriots in New England. The American Revolution began when the first shots were fired at Lexington on April 19, 1775. Each side said the other fired first. Patriots’ Day was established to mark the beginning of the Revolutionary War.”)

In 2014, according to, Sen. Chris Johnson, D-Somerville,  introduced a bill to change the punctuation from a singular possessive to a plural possessive, because a constituent asked him to. Sen. Johnson thought "the Legislature should make the change to honor all the patriots of [the Lexington and Concord] battles and to model proper punctuation for students." The legislation wasn't successful.

A University of Maine at Augusta English professor, Lisa Botshon, thinks there's a third possibility, which is better than either of the possessives: just get rid of the apostrophe altogether. Without punctuation, it becomes a day about patriots rather than belonging to them (or one of them). This is called the plural attributive, and the Associated Press style book requires its use for Presidents Day, a federal holiday, now that several presidents instead of only one, are honored on that day.

All of which just goes to show that there's room for argument about use of American English even by native speakers in the U.S.

Boston Strong: Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon

Patriot's Day is inextricably linked to the Boston Marathon.
The first marathon, 39.4 kilometers, was run in 1897. The race was inspired by the marathon run in the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. In honor of the shared struggle of Athens and the United States for liberty, the race was scheduled for Patriots' Day, a holiday established only in 1894.
What is Patriot's Day? The holiday commemorates the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. Those clashes between British troops and colonial militiamen touched off the American Revolution.  It isn't a national holiday. Only Massachusetts and Maine (which was a part of Massachusetts until 1820) celebrate it as a full official holiday.
In 1969, the commemoration was changed to the third Monday in April to allow for a 3-day weekend. The race made the change, too. It's the oldest annual marathon in the world and has been run continuously since 1897.
Originally, it was a local event. Anyone who wanted to run, did, free of charge, and the winner was given a wreath of olive branches to wear. But in the 1980s, professional runners encouraged corporate sponsors to put up prize money for the race. In 1986, the first cash prize was given. Women weren't officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972. The race has historically allowed "bandits," people who run the race without paying the entry fee. They can't start running until the official entrants have left, but they have been allowed to cross the finish line. Because of the bombings in 2013, bandits are now discouraged.
The bombings gave the race a new dimension.
In 2013, a little before 3:00 p.m., nearly 3 hours after the winners had completed the race, two bombs exploded about 180 meters before the finish line. Three people were killed; some 260 people were injured. The race was halted, and Boston mobilized. Both runners and spectators, rather than running away from the explosion site, converged on it to help the victims.
Runners and spectators help victims
of Boston Marathon bombing 2013
For the next four days, Boston and its suburbs cooperated with authorities in the effort to capture the bombers. When one, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was tracked to Watertown, residents stayed in their homes at the request of police for several long hours while a dragnet was spread to capture the suspect.
  Tsarnaev's trial recently ended with a conviction on all counts he was charged with. His defense stated that the ethnic Chechen acted in retribution for U.S. military campaigns in Muslim-dominated countries, convinced to do so by his older brother. (The brother was killed in a shoot-out during the pursuit of the suspects.)
Meb Keflezighi crosses the finish
at the 2014 Boston Marathon
The 2014 Boston Marathon had tightened security, but more spectators than ever crowded the streets to see the runners fly past. For the first time since 1983, the winner was a U.S. runner,  Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif.
This year, both organizers and runners see the race as a return to a new normalcy. The Associated Press reported that while security will be tight "officials have avoided more drastic measures, like creating a buffer zone between fans and the runners, or closing off certain areas of the course to spectators entirely."
           Thirty thousand runners will start the race on April 20, and a million spectators will cheer them on. Bill Rogers, who has won the race 4 times, summarized how people are looking at this year's race: "The healing is occurring; that's what everyone wants. They want it to be a wonderful celebration, just like it has always been. And I think that's what's happening."
Boston Strong: City skyline and Longfellow
Bridge on the Charles River