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Monday, February 28, 2011

National Grammar Day is March 4

A powerful supercomputer with 2,800 processors that competed in “Jeopardy.” What is Watson?

There was an online poll: Who do you think is going to win? I voted for Watson! Beaver wanted a human to win; I was cheering for Watson.

Watson has gotten a lot of attention: articles, TV shows, comedians’ jokes, and more. Rightfully so. Greg Lindsay, a contributing writer to, called the Jeopardy man vs. machine match-up the “Nerd Super Bowl.” I had a front row seat (in my living room)!

My favorite clue and response were under the category, Beatles’ People: “Any time you feel the pain, hey - this guy - Don't carry the world upon your shoulders.” Watson correctly responded, “Who is Jude?” Okay, so the song is about a guy, but still, Watson called my name!

Watson was impressive. Beaver and I watched a fascinating NOVA special about Watson and its creators. NOVA chronicled Watson in its mock “Jeopardy” contests to prepare it for its big debut. Here’s a link if you’re interested in reading more about it. (

Computers can take on human-like characteristics. Have computers ever "scolded" you? They've scolded me! Years ago, I had to use prime numbers to resize files on a miniframe system. If I entered a non-prime number in the command; the computer would yell at me, “NOT A PRIME NUMBER!” Excuse me? Have you ever typed a misspelled word in Google’s search text box? Google displays Did you mean: (with the corrected spelling). Little smarty-pants!

Do you like it when computers catch your errors? Let me know what you think.

Back to “Jeopardy” and Alex Trebek—Watson is a computer, although Alex kept referring to it as a man, by saying “he” and “him.” I’ve got to correct you on this one, Alex! With National Grammar Day (Friday, March 4) just days away (yes, it’s that time of year already), using a masculine pronoun for a computer is not grammatically correct. Use a gender-neutral pronoun, not a masculine pronoun.

By the way, National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG). (

So, what are you doing to celebrate National Grammar Day? Grammar Girl has a Web site dedicated to the national holiday. ( Check out all the fun things to do! Will you send a free E-card to your favorite grammarian? Will you enter the Fiction Writing Contest? Let me know how you’re celebrating!

And let me be the first to wish you a safe and happy National Grammar Day!

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