The Virginia General Assembly agreed to commend the 116-member, all-volunteer Fairfax Symphony today, ending an eight-week-long dispute over use of the word "to."
A resolution praising the orchestra, which normally would have cleared the legislature in about a week, had become ensnarled by what one Northern Virginia delegate claimed was a state senator's "fooling around with the Queen's English."
On the question of whose grammar was best, neither the 100-member House of Delegates nor the 40-member state Senate was willing to budge.
Del. Vincent F. Callahan (R-Fairfax), who sponsored the resolution, accused Sen. Madison Marye (D-Montgomery) of being a "nit-picker" for deleting the word "to" from the resolution, one of hundreds typically approved by the assembly.
Marye, a retired Army major, farmer and service station operator, had objected to a sentence in the initial version of the resolution that read: "The clerk of the House of Delegates is directed to prepare a suitable copy of this resolution to be sent to the symphony." Marye insisted that the last "to" was ungrammatical and ought to be deleted.
Not so, countered Callahan, who edits several technical publications. With both legislators holding firm, the resolution was dispatched to a joint House-Senate conference committee, an action usually reserved for the most important bills in any session.
"It's just been hanging there . . . on the legislative calender for weeks," Callahan, a six-term House member, complained.
Today the conference committee agreed to restore the last "to," as Callahan had insisted, and the resolution that commends the Fairfax Symphony for its planned participation in an arts festival in Bogota, Columbia, cleared both houses without debate.
Marye said today that he had meant no harm. "But I think either way is grammatically correct, really," he said. "I'm in full accord with the resolution and I've told the sponsor that."
Callahan, for his part, said he never told the symphony what had gone wrong with the promised resolution. "All I've told them," he said, "is that everything is under control."