Bullets and Bad Comma: a Tale of Grammar Noir


The phone rang— I made an em-dash for it. A man was on the line. He said he had colon problems. I told him I was an editor, not a proctologist. He said that was swell, and he'd be right over.

He showed up at the office with a preposition for me. I said, is that a pen in your pocket, or are you happy to see me? He opened his coat to reveal his piece. A powerful little number but bulky. I asked him to put it slowly on the table so we could get down to work.

He hesitated, asking me for a quote first. I gave him two, telling him he'd need both for later.

Then he said he was ready to show me the colon. I saw right away he had a nice asterisk, but had to force myself to look beyond his dangling participle. It was totally out of whack, and I didn't want to embarrass him this soon in the meeting.

Well, it turns out he was wrong. The colon was listing, all right, but it looked like the rest had been hit by a semi-.

I explained the clause of his troubles twice. He wasn't getting it. "Do I need to draw you a diagram?" I asked.

I didn't want to compound his frustration; he was a client, after all. I was just wondering how we could find unity on this, when we reached a conjunction. That's when he hit me with the complement. "You're the definite article," he said, drawing me close.

Suddenly, our ellipse met... something I never would have predicated. It was like a spell.

And that's when the grammar police burst through the door. Turns out, my client was wanted in three states for adverb abuse.

Quickly, suddenly, nervously, desperately, he pulled his piece on them. And that was all the evidence they needed.

Soon we were in a court down at the capital. It was an upper case. Things were tense, as we worried about our past, present and future.

Then the judge read the sentence.

The collective had spoken and there was agreement. Guilty as charged!

I tried to explain it was just bad comma, but I could see we were at an end mark. They threw the book at him. The sentence. It had us in fragments. We both suffixed terribly. In fact, we still suffix.

Because we were -ment to be together. And that's all that matters.

Period.

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51 comments:

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

Well-done. I'm totally stealing this if I get that job teaching English I applied for the other day.

feefifoto said...

I loved loved loved this!! I'm sending it to everyone I know -- that is, everyone I know who can write.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- Oh, I hope you do get the job! How exciting-- fingers crossed for you.

FeeFiFoto- I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I've been mulling over the idea for about half a year now and finally realized how to approach it.

StillThinking said...

This was great! I completely got the Saturday morning "Schoolhouse Rock" and "Bloodhound Gang" vibe. I know a few peeps over at BC who could use a grammar detective that sounds like Jimmy Cagney...

Jenn Thorson said...

StillThinking- Hey thanks! Yes, the Internetz might be a full-time grammar police endeavor. :)

Shawn said...

Unbelievably brilliant.

Why do I always find myself reading your posts in someone else's voice? Today? Humphrey Bogart.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shawn- Aw, gotta love Bogey! All riiiight! :)

ReformingGeek said...

Ha! Verby funny!

I love it.

Shirley said...

That was great! Lol! :)

Jenn Thorson said...

ReformingGeek- :)

Shirley- Hey thanks. T'was fun to do.

beth♥ said...

OMFG!!! I love you. I'm straight, but I love you.

freetheunicorns said...

Awesome. And oh so clever. All I could hear (and see) was Philip Marlow. This needs to be read by many and all.

Jenn Thorson said...

Beth- Heh, well, I'm straight, too, but always happy for delighted readers! :)

FreeTheUnicorns- I have watched a few Bogey films in my time. He had such a great knack for delivering those noir double entendres-- funny and to the point.

Babs (Beetle) said...

Brilliant! :O)

Pearl said...

Jenn, dammit, that's the best thing I've read in a blog (including mine, dammit) in, oh, years. So well-written.

Bloggily and ever-so-slightly jealously yours,
Pearl

Pearl said...

p.s. I heard it in Garrison Keillor's voice when he does "Guy Noir"...

Jenn Thorson said...

Babs- Thanks so much for stopping by!

Pearl- Ha, I haven't thought of Garrison Keillor's Guy Noir in a good long while!

However, for anyone who loves the noir genre, do not miss "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"! A very well done film.

The Mother said...

Hilarious. My homeschooled kids are going to get this for homework tomorrow.

Jenn Thorson said...

Ah, Mother- Just beware that film noir is a teensy bit racy in a pun-way... I would not want the kiddies to be surprised. :)

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Well done!! LOve it.

DeadRooster said...

Split his infinitive and send him on his way!

faeriekat said...

Pay no heed to his exclamations, but mark them well.

This much fun has to be illegal!

Ryan Garns said...

I love noir. And noir parodies. Well done.

Jenn Thorson said...

Mary- Hey, thank you muchly. Glad to have you here.

Rooster- You're alive! I thought you had fallen off the face of the earth... or flew the coop at least.

Faeriekat- Heh, grammar humor is addictive... and apparently catching. :)

Ryan- Cheers!

Speedcat Hollydale said...

Ha haaa !!!!!!!!!! (exclamation multiples)


Very creative :-)

Jenn Thorson said...

Speedy- Thanks! I hope your day is capital. :)

nonamedufus said...

Oh, that was priceless. No need to question Mark. Mark (and nonamedufus)thinks this is the funniest thing you've written -period.

Margo said...

Such a fun and fabulous post. I was so seeing Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray in "Double Indemnity"

Jenn Thorson said...

NoNameDufus- Ah, thank you. And I appreciate that you comma by!

Margo- Oh what a great movie that is. Though always weird to see Fred MacMurray in less squeaky-clean roles.

Vic said...

SO clever! I'd read this with my high school students, but they'd say "Whaaa?". Grammar is still a foreign concept to them, despite my best efforts.

But I loved it.

Steph said...

I had to print that out and share it with all my fellow editors and communication writers here at work.

That was amazing.

Jenn Thorson said...

Vic- I imagine given the popularity texting, that situation is only going to get worse as time goes on, too.

Steph- Oh, that totally tickles me. Thanks for sharing, Steph!

Hindleyite said...

Period? Oh, for God's sake, that's far too much information for this time of morning. I know it isn't morning here, but it is somewhere in the world.

Jenn Thorson said...

Hindleyite- Ah, I suppose someone was bound to make that joke. :) It's like bringing a cannon on stage, isn't it?

Mom and girls said...

Wow! One of your absolute best posts ever!!! Loved it!

I could just about see and hear the sultry voiced blonde bombshell telling it too.

A masterpiece!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Hear hear! (or is it here here?)
Anyway, that was fantastic. I haven't read anything that much fun in a while! You, my dear, have outdone yourself with this one, in my humble opinion.

Wow.

Did I mention that I loved this? (stumble, stumble)

Susan of ThinkThinks said...

I loved this and would post a witty, pun-filled comment if I weren't so intimidated by your brilliance.

Well done.

Jenn Thorson said...

Mom and Girls- I was kinda thinking of Lauren Bacall, so that tickles me you were going along the same lines with it. :)

Nanny Goats- Oh, thank you, thank you. :) You're such a good writer, that is indeed an honor!!

Susan- Thanks a bunch for the visit!

dizzblnd said...

How did I miss this? It was brilliant. Very very funny!

JD at I Do Things said...

Thanks for leaving the link in your other post.

This was brilliant. How do you do it? This really could/should be submitted to a language magazine or blog. It's awesome, truly.

Jenn Thorson said...

DizzBlnd- I thank ye! :)

JD- I had notes on this thing, saved in Blogger, for some ridiculous amount of time-- months. I never felt like writing it until this week. Weird how these things happen.

Nothinglikeit said...

Absolutely brilliant! Keep up the good work!

Robin

unfinishedrambler said...

Can't wait to see more posts like this from your shower in the future. At least, we know they will be clean. Hardy har, har, har.

Drowsey Monkey said...

LOL - wow that was impressive! I've read it 3 times now,LOL!

Jenn Thorson said...

Drowsey- Oh wow... grammar has some hypnotic power, I guess. :)

Chris said...

I love it, you are now my girlfriend!

Jenn Thorson said...

Chris- Boy, that must have been some unexpectedly powerful writing! :)

Meds said...

hysterical...awesome job!

Tina said...

Hahaha...that was hilarious!

Jenn Thorson said...

Meds and Tina- Thanks to both of you, and I appreciate you stopping by!

mr loser said...

Clever, well done & funny