Beware the Fourth of March
Consider this a warning: March 4 is National Grammar Day.
Though this blog is listed as participating in the event, I feel a tremor of apprehension at how the various mavens, snobs, SNOOTs, elitists, prescriptionists and precisionists, drunk with power at getting a day all their own, might comport themselves.
Shall we see people who say “between you and I” clapped into stocks in the public square? Will insurgents sweep through markets, tearing down signs announcing TOMATO’S and CUKE’S? Will newspapers and magazines find themselves buried under sacks of mail full of letters that begin, “Have any of the members of your staff attended college” or “Are any of your employees native speakers of English?” Will the air above our great cities fill with smoke as mobs armed with pitchforks and torches storm the publishing houses that have dispensed with copy editing? Will straggling crowds of journalists who have written about safe havens and mass exoduses and the HIV virus shuffle through the streets on their way to re-education camps where they will shovel manure until they are rehabilitated?
Well, we all love a spectacle.
Or will the participants take a more civilized and informed approach? Perhaps to sit down with that high school English teacher who forbade splitting infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions, explaining gently that there is nothing wrong with either in English. Or to hand out copies of Garner’s Modern American Usage to those in need of clarity. Or read David Foster Wallace’s "Authority and American Usage" in Consider the Lobster and Other Essays for its fun and good sense.
Or to resolve not to be so prissy and self-important, letting people indulge in the demotic of their choice when they talk or write casual electronic messages, and focusing attention on the way people write for publication.
Or perhaps just to hold on to that letter or memo or article a little longer, to go over one more time to see what might be cleaned up.
And you, you civilian, you non-maven, you reader. On that fateful Tuesday, it won’t be necessary to hug a copy editor — nobody wants that. But you might murmur a quiet word of thanks.