On April 12, to begin a column about a grammatical error made by a waitress, I wrote: "It had been one of those Monday mornings."
Little did I know. For later in the same paragraph, I committed a grammatical sin for which there is no probation and no parole.
Ever since, I have been hearing about it. Boy, oh, boy, have I been hearing about it. So it's time to cry "Uncle," and to begin deep-frying the crow.
The sin: a dangling participle. The smoking gun: "While standing on the bus, my cuff had sprung a button."
Now, what that sentence really says is that my cuff was standing on the bus when its button popped. There are lots of weird ducks on the bus, but none of the ones I've seen are made of reinforced cotton and thread.
In any case, the mail was swift, sharp and merciless, as justice says it should have been.
"Tsk! Tsk!" wrote Anne Lopez of Bowie. She was the gentlest.
"Did your cuff stand on the bus because it was stiff from too much starch?" asked Al Guttag of Bethesda.
"And you talk about the way a waitress uses the language. For shame," chided Edith A.M. Pond of Sperryville, Va.
"You win the golden stone (for throwing in your glass house)," jibed Ruth Henoch of Potomac.
"I'll bet that cuff got tired as hell," guessed Jefferson Bates of Arlington.
Michael M. Pino of Alexandria, who teaches intensive English at Southeastern University, hinted that I needed to be hooked up to a linguistic life-support system, since it was clear that, grammatically, I was terminally ill. Mike's suggestion ran on for three single-spaced pages. It didn't do so because he was being kind.
Leland F. Ramsdell of Columbia said it "takes a first class jerk to write a sentence like that . . . . I'll bet you left her a nickel tip, too." At least he called me first class. And at least I left a buck fifty.
The only hint of sunshine on the horizon came from Wendy Griswold of Arlington. "Please tell me you just did it to see if we were all awake," she wrote.
Sorry, Wendy. There was only one person who was asleep. Three guesses.
If you're sitting there, coffee mug in hand, waiting to see how Old Bobby Blue-eyes is going to wriggle out of this one, I'm afraid I must disappoint you.
Like the Redskins, I have no defense. I can only note, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, that no one bats a thousand. Especially on Monday mornings.
As penance, I have tacked up on my bulletin board the following morsel of deliciousness from Carol Cassell of College Park.
Every Monday morning, for obvious reasons, I force myself to reread it.
It's called "Grammer Rules."
1) Don't use no double negatives.
2) Make each pronoun agree with their antecedent.
3) Join clauses good, like conjunctions should.
4) About them sentence fragments.
5) When dangling, watch your participles Columnist's note: ouch! .
6) Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
7) Just between you and I, case is important too.
8) Don't write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
9) Don't use commas, which aren't necessary.
10) Try to not ever split infinitives.
11) Its important to use your apostrophe's correctly.
12) Proofread your writing to see if you any words out.
13) Correct spelling is esential.
Hap Traub passes along this one from the American Legion magazine:
Two babies were getting acquainted in a hospital nursery.
"I'm a girl," said one.
"I'm a boy," said the other.
"How do you know you're a boy?"
"Wait till the nurse gets out of the room and I'll show you."
As soon as the nurse left, the baby pulled up his gown and said, "See, blue booties."