All Caps ≠ Importance

Carlotta Capilito

The building reverberated with a stentorian voice.

What is going on?” Grammar Smith was startled in mid-sentence of a report on a particularly nasty case of apostrophe abuse.

“I WANT TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE IN CHARGE.” The voice was getting closer – and louder.

“What’s all the fuss about?” Grammar asked Sgt. Metaphor.

“Huh?” The sergeant took earplugs out.

“What’s the fuss?”

“Oh, it’s just Carlotta Capilito. She’s here to talk to you about arrangements for the annual Composition Benefit Gala.”

Sgt. Metaphor put the earplugs back in as a tall, stately woman rounded the corner.

“ARE YOU LIEUTENANT GRAMMAR SMITH?”

“Yes.” Grammar was surprised that her hair was actually being blown back. She thought that only happened in comic books.

“I AM CARLOTTA CAPILITO, AND EVERYTHING I SAY IS IMPORTANT. I AM HERE TO DISCUSS THE GALA.”

“Right this way,” Dis Connect had appeared and was showing Carlotta to a meeting room.

Sgt. Metaphor handed Grammar a pair of earplugs, “Here. I also have some Chardonnay on ice for when the meeting’s over.”

Mystified, Grammar took the earplugs and was putting them in when she heard, “Hi, Grammar!! How have you been?! Working on this gala together is going to be great!!”

Pushing Grammar toward the meeting room, Sgt. Metaphor nodded sagely, “Eddie Exclamation is on the committee, too.”


Thanks to Roxie for inspiring this week’s entry. 🤗

The Progressive, Perfect, Perfect-Progressive Tense Crime

Simple-Tense-Crime

Grammar Smith and her team met Monday morning for a status report on an assault case reported Sunday night by Simple Verb Tense.

“Where do we stand?” Grammar asked.

“Bffnbb argghwng tiddycrmsc.”

What?

Sgt.  Metaphor tried not to snicker.

Dis Connect swallowed the last of his doughnut. “Biff and Bob are going to the crime scene to collect evidence.”

“So they’re on their way?” Grammar asked.

“No, they haven’t left yet.”

“But you used the progressive tense which means they are in the process of going.”

“They haven’t left yet.”

“Then just use the simple future: will go.”

Grammar always had gotten grumpy when people misused verb tenses. Today was no exception.

“Okay, let’s move on. What do we know about the assault?”

“The victim had been reporting the assault last night.”

“Did something happen?” Grammar was confused.

“When?”

“When the victim reported the crime.”

“Like what?”

“Good grief, Dis! You used the past perfect progressive which means something else happened. What was it?”

“Nothing.”

“Then just use the simple past: reported. How can you, a police officer, be so inaccurate in your verb tenses. Get the time right from now on.”

Dis was crushed. He thought he was being precise.

Inspector Nigel Honour, on loan from Scotland Yard’s Grammar Centre, put his arm around the shoulders of the disheartened detective.

“Don’t worry too much, old chap. Lots of people get their tenses mixed up. Here, use this.” Nigel handed Dis a chart. “The only difference is, we Brits use ‘continuous’ for the ‘progressive’ you Yanks use.”

Dis brightened up considerably. “Gee, thanks, Nigel. You’re a real pal.”

Who’s Organizing Team Pronoun-Antecedent?

Who's on first

“Grammar, have you heard about the new softball league?” Detective Dis Connect asked his partner.

“No, who’s organizing it?”

“Ralph told Norman he should be in charge, but Serena told Mabel she would be better at it.”

“What?” Grammar was confused.

Dis just prattled on, “They organized their own teams and just took over.”

“Who took over?”

“They did. They just started it up, but they need more teams since they only have two.”

“Whose teams are set?” Grammar asked.

“The Comma Comets and the Paragraph Panthers. But it needs a few more people for a full roster,” Dis explained.

“Which needs more players?”

“The team does. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

“I thought I was, but now I’m just confused,” Grammar said. She felt a bubble deep in her memory hinting that she had heard this before.

“They have it all set. You just have to sign up for that team or organize your own.”

“If I start my own team, who gets the roster?” Grammar felt a migraine coming on.

“Just email it to them. They’ll get back to you. There are lots of officers who want to play. You should talk to her about being your pitcher.”

“Who?”

“Well, you just can’t have anyone pitch. You need someone with talent. I’d start with her then have him as a backup.”

“You know what, Dis?” Grammar sighed. “I think you’re the guy for the job. Let me know what position you want me to play when you get it all sorted out with them.”

An Age-Old Problem

Hunt and peck

“This is it, the Hunt & Peck,” Sgt. Dis Connect said.

He opened the door and let Grammar Smith walk in before him.

Grammar peered across the dim barroom. There wasn’t much going on. A few Oxford commas were in the corner, hunched over their drinks, commiserating over their lot. Slumped at the bar, nursing a cocktail, was Grammar’s prey.

“Henrietta Hyphen?” Grammar asked as she and Dis approached the bar.

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m Inspector Grammar Smith of the Department of English Language Offenses. This is Sgt. Dis Connect.” They flashed their badges.

“We’d like you to come down to the station to have a chat,” Grammar continued.

“Why?” Ms. Hyphen wasn’t exactly belligerent; she was just strongly uncooperative.

“We’ve had a complaint that you assaulted a news reporter.”

“Are you kidding me?! She actually filed a complaint? That idiot was making my life miserable. She couldn’t decide when she wanted me and when she didn’t. What an airhead!”

“What do you mean?” Grammar asked.

“She kept tryingt to throw me in places where I didn’t belong. She’d write someone was ‘24-years-old’ or, even worse, ‘18-years old.’ Then she’d write ‘the 4 year old boy’ which is totally wrong. Yeah, I got huffy and gave her a shove, but that’s not assault.”

“Hold on a second,” Grammar said. She consulted the AP Stylebook site on her tablet. (She’d been tricked before by “backyard,” which the AP says should always be one word.)

Under “ages,” she found that hyphens should only be used when an age is being used as an adjective before a noun or as a noun: the 25-year-old scotch, the 5-year-old, or the 105-year-old square dancer.

However, it should be The United States is 241 years old.

“Well, the reporter was wrong and doesn’t seem to understand how to properly punctuate compound adjectives. However, you still shouldn’t have put your hands on her,” Grammar said. “I’ll  put this down as unfounded, but stay out of trouble.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Henrietta turned back to her drink.

 

Why the “H” Is It There?

Silent Hs

“Inspector Smith! Inspector Smith!”

Grammar Smith looked around, but couldn’t quite see who was calling her name. She felt a tug on her jacket and looked down. There was a small boy with tousled hair and a quizzical look gazing up at her.

“Hello there. Who might you be?” Grammar asked.

“I’m Ellison, and I want to know what the ‘h’ is doing in ‘honor.’”

“What?” Grammar didn’t quite understand.

“Well, why is the ‘h’ there? It doesn’t make a sound. It isn’t doing anything,” Ellison declared. “It seems pretty suspicious to me.”

“That’s a really good question. In this case, the ‘h’ tagged along when the word migrated over from France and started living in English,” Grammar explained. “There are other foreign words we’ve adopted where the ‘h’ is in the picture, but doesn’t do any work – words like heir, hour, messiah, Hannah, ghetto, and ghost.

“In some words, like shepherd and exhaust, people got lazy and now just ignore the ‘h.’ But sometimes the ‘h’ doesn’t seem to be doing much, but it keeps people from getting words confused. Think of ‘hour’ for time and ‘our’ a way to show we own something. “

“Like ‘whit’ and ‘wit’?” Ellison asked.

Kid’s got quite the vocabulary! Grammar thought.

“Yes, Ellison, that’s right.”

“Are there other letters in words that you don’t hear from?”

“Yes, Ellison, lots and lots. Unfortunately, I have a meeting to get to. Detective Dis Connect over there can explain all that to you.”

Grammar pointed Ellison in Dis’s direction, gave him a slight push, and watched as the boy eagerly toddled over.

I am so evil! Grammar thought quickly heading in the opposite direction.


Special thanks this week to my Lucas muses. 😀

Where Have All [ ] Articles Gone?

no-articles-copy“It’s been going on a lot longer than we thought, Lieutenant,” Ms. White said.

“At first we thought they were just occasionally asserting their independence,” Ms. Strunk dabbed her nose with her handkerchief. “Now it’s becoming severe.”

Grammar nodded. “Most writers don’t realize how much articles do in a sentence until they’re gone. Can you give us some details? Was there unrest?”

“Well, A and An are always rather contentious. They’re never quite sure which should do what,” Ms. White explained. “We went over it thousands of times, but words like herb and union constantly present difficulties.”

“But The was always solid and dependable. Maybe we took them all for granted,” added Ms. Strunk.

Yes, small but vital to flowing sentences, Grammar mused.

“Do you think they took off of their own volition? Or do you think someone has ulterior motives for keeping them out of writing?”

“I hate to think there’s some nefarious scheme to keep our articles from us,” Ms. Strunk sobbed. “All we want is for them to come back and make our writing flow again!”

“I think it’s lazy writers shutting our articles out of their rightful places,” declared Ms. White.

Grammar pondered life without articles:

  • “We people of United States, in order to form more perfect union…”
  • “I have dream!”
  • “It was worst of times; it was best of times.”
  • Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe

Yes, Lieutenant Smith knew she had to track down those missing articles quickly. She turned to Dis Connect.

“Send out all points bulletins for A, An, and The as missing adjectives. We don’t suspect any foul play – yet.”

 

The Sentence Samurai Strikes Again

sentence-samurai-copyAs Grammar Smith walked down the hallway of the old, high-ceilinged
building, she saw officers in crime scene gear shuffling in and out of the door at the far end. Occasional flashes punctuated the hallway.

A woman clutching a manuscript to her chest sobbed on one bench while another, looking bored
and impatient, sat on another.

“It’s a real massacre,” Dis Connect murmured in Grammar’s ear. “I haven’t seen anything like this since Stephen King blew through.”

Grammar poked her head in the door. The room was a typical editing office: desks, computers, reference books, and a giant coffee maker. Typical except for the puddles of non-repro blue ink and bodies of bloated phrases everywhere.

Grammar took Dis off to the side. “Give me the breakdown.”

“Ten due to the fact thats, 32 nowadays, 257 unnecessary uses of the verb to be, 88 and alsos, 19 we as human beings, and an it was a dark and stormy night.”

“Have you interviewed the witnesses?”

Dis colored. “Um, well, Ms. Scrivener was so upset, I figured I’d let her calm down a bit.”

Chicken! Grammar thought as she sat next to Ms. Scrivener. Patting the woman’s hand, Grammar asked, “Can you tell me what happened?”

“It was horrible! The ink everywhere! Phrases lying around! Look at my baby!” The writer thrust the crumpled, damp manuscript at Grammar. “It’s half what it was when I brought it in here. This place is a charnel house.”

“Oh, give me a break!” the woman from the other bench said. “That manuscript’s a thousand times more readable now.”

“And you are?” Grammar asked.

“Tweakly Fine-Tune. I run this business.”

“There’s no sign of a forced entry. Do you have any idea how the perpetrator got in?”

“Probably over the transom,” Ms. Fine-Tune said pointing to the open glass panel above the door.

“Yes, it looks like the Sentence Samurai has been here,” Grammar said to Dis.

“Hey, Lieutenant,” Ms. Fine-Tune said. “When will you folks be done? I’ve got to get rid of that stench of passive voice and get back to work.”