Ever since the experiment, I’ve been on the run. On the run from those who would put me away from society, and on the run from the monster inside that makes society hate me so.
A few years ago, I conducted a scientific experiment on myself by reading Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book length rant wherein this proper British lady turns up her nose at the syntactical errors surrounding us. Since that time, whenever I encounter such hostile grammatical slips, I transform. A brutish beast that lurks deep within suddenly emerges in a violent spasm of rage and…I can’t control what it does. My normally mild-mannered self is helplessly in the thrall of this rampaging textual vigilante.
Perhaps the first such occurrence was last summer at the gym. A poster advertising a local chiropractor attempted to taunt and/or tantalize its potential clientele with the tagline: “It’s never to late to start.”
And then the…thing…tore its way to the surface. The poor-usage-intolerant mutant fumed, “‘Never to late’?! Surely it means ‘never too late’!” The beast wanted to call the number given on the poster and complain bitterly that an advertisement for the services of a health professional should itself be more professional. Maybe fearing ridicule, my normal self prevailed in restraining the monster…barely…that first time. Vindication for passive-aggressive weenies everywhere.
But the control was not to last. I remember each and every time I’ve seen an email from any administrator in a school–a school!–that has a mistake in usage. For shame! I would cry as the primeival brute burst out and wreaked havoc on the offender.
And just last week, at 7-11…a hand-written sign by the Slurpee machine said, “This cups for Slurpees only.” At least they spelled the brand name “Slurpee” right. But the creature within was confused at first as to where it should even direct its editorial vitriol: was “this” a hastily-scribbled substitute for “these,” or was a missing apostrophe in “cups” obscuring a reference to a specific size of cup? Had a verb been supplied, informing us of the singular or plural nature of the intended pronoun, this mystery could have been resolved peacefully, and the SWAT team that finally drove me from the brittle remains of the convenience store needn’t have bothered the coroner’s office.
But there is hope. Most recently, I saw a teenager I know wearing a silk-screen T shirt memorializing a deceased friend. On the back was a picture of the departed fellow, and the phrase, “always in good sprits.” The ugly green monster that is, truly, never very far submerged to begin with wanted to accost the youngster and inquire what a “sprit” was, but knowing that such an outburst would be horrible beyond all comprehension, I successfully suppressed the urge. It was the first such victory in a long time.
But now, as I trudge along the side of a dreary interstate highway, somber piano theme music in the background, I can only wonder what will happen the next time I hear someone end a sentence with a preposition, or say “pronounciate” unironically. Just thinking about it stirs bubbles in the brain, and I know that, sooner or later, the Inner Stickler Hulk will be loosed upon a functionally illiterate world once again, and savage things will be done…