Friday, March 3, 2023

Grammar Noir: The Old Editor grilled

I was at the bar sipping an afternoon boulevardier when some rando came in and asked, “Are you the Old Editor?” When I owned the soft impeachment, he handed me a piece of paper and said, “You have been served.” 

The paper was a summons to testify before the House Subcommittee on Governmental Travesties, chaired by one Representative Browbeat, with regard to challenges to my book, Bad Advice: The Most Unreliable Counsel Available on Grammar, Usage, and Writing. 

My attorneys at Dewey, Cheatam & Howe assured me that there was no option but to appear, so I selected a dark suit, a somber bow tie, and a humble demeanor, taking my seat in the chamber. 

The inquisitors glowered at me like reporters who have been assigned weekend shifts.

The first question was from Congressman Gorgon: “It says here, on the third page of this disgraceful book, that there is no harm in ending a sentence with a preposition, despite what all of us have been taught since elementary school. I’m appalled. If not teaching correct grammar, what do you think schooling is for?”

“Well, Congressman, since your question ended with a preposition without your noticing it, we may have to entertain the idea that terminal prepositions are just naturally used by native speakers of English.”

The chairwoman’s gavel cut off a ripple of laughter from the spectators. 

Congresswoman Preen followed up: “You also write that there is no harm in split infinitives, and you have the gall to advise that splitting the infinitive is often preferable. This is the worst kind of woke editing to even pretend to be legitimate.”

“Um, Congresswoman, I think you can see that you your remarks allowed the adverb even to fall into a comfortable spot in the infinitive to pretend.”

The look on the congresswoman’s face was like the expression at someone’s first sip of newsroom coffee, which, like the newsroom itself, is weak but bitter. 

Chairwoman Browbeat interrupted: “It is bad enough that you want to tear down the rules of grammar, but it’s even worse that you want to deny people’s humanity by allowing that to refer to human beings. This is more of the Critical Grammar Theory that has been gaining ground because of you people with your degrees from elite universities, and we cannot allow CGT to be taught.”

“Well, Congresswoman, I wouldn’t say elite. I have a master’s degree from Syracuse …” 

“And CGT is exactly why we must urgently pass legislation to make English the official language of the United States, and criminalize the subversive and woke teaching of CGT.” 

“I would have thought, Congresswoman, that your party’s principles of free speech and limited government might get in the way of a law to make the way people talk a criminal offense. But to respond directly to your proposal to make English the official language of the nation, I’d like to quote a maxim from my other book, The Old Editor Says.” 


“You’re looking up a dead hog’s ass.”

“Security! Eject this man!”