Thursday, July 07, 2005

Grammar Squad

The Grammar Squad was where you went when you needed a safe place to ride out your last few years until retirement. It was pretty slow and much less dangerous than working the Spelling detail. Over the past two weeks alone, they'd lost three officers - most recently when a rookie accused a suspect of 'lion.' The beast mauled the poor bastard to death before the mistake could be rectified.

I'd done a week in Spelling before requesting my transfer. Now I was just another Detective ticking off the days until I could sit back and collect my pension. I leaned forward and tore another page off of my countdown calendar, smiling at the thought that there were only 5,053 days to go before I'd get my gold watch and my hardcover copy of Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" and be off to enjoy the rest of my days in leisure. However, until that day came, I still had a job to do.

There had been a significant increase in grammar related incidents and I wasn't sure what to make of it. During the past week we'd busted more low-level offenders than we generally saw in a year. They included:

  • A 62 year old pervert who loitered around playgrounds with a dangling participle. He'd walk up to little kids and say things like "Riding along on my bicycle, a dog knocked me over' " or "Since breaking my leg, my neighbor has mowed my lawn."
  • A 17 year old girl for alliterating. When I arrested her, she said "Cuffs? Crazy copper. You can't catch career criminals?"
  • A young mother for double negatives, who proclaimed her innocence by saying "I didn't do nothing."
  • A middle aged businessman who was hooked on puns. While not technically a crime, it did lead to violence - he was beaten up so regularly for his awful pun-manship1 that we had to lock him up for his own protection. And finally,
  • An eighty year old grandmother for onomatopoeia-ing2 in a public place.

None of the arrests made sense. These were all solid members of the community with clean records. Of course, not being career criminals made them easy to interrogate and they cracked pretty quickly.

Apparently, a Grammatical Errors dealer had recently set-up shop in a run down section of the city. He had it all, from simile juice to metaphorphetamines. I knew that if we didn't stop him soon, proper sentence structure would soon be a thing of the past - and if we let that happen, anarchy would rule.

I called a meeting with the tactical team. After a quick planning meeting we swung into action, high-tailing over to his base of operations, breaking down the door and storming in. I scanned the room quickly and found it empty save an addict who sat in the corner mumbling homonyms.

"Accept/except," he said "add/ad, bridle/bridal, hair/hare, lead/lead/led3, mail/male..." Finally, the miserable wretch retched all over himself before nodding off to sleep.

We conducted a room-by-room search and found the dealer hiding in a closet. He tried to make a break for it with a run-on sentence, but it left him so winded that the was barely able to move. "You cops are all over me like a cheap suit." he gasped as we slapped the cuffs on him.

We took him back to the station house and booked him on a number of charges including:

  • Failure to Use Possessive Case with a Gerund
  • Misuse of "That" and "Which"
  • Unclear Antecedents for "This," "Which," and "It" and
  • Inconsistent Verb Tenses

It had been a long and productive day and I needed to get home and get some rest.

After all, how long can a story built on such a flimsy premise last?4

1 Sorry

2 Sorry....again

3 lead: pronounced to rhyme with "seed", to guide or serve as the head of
lead: pronounced to rhyme with "head", a heavy metal
led: the past tense of "lead" or the first word in the name of the seminal rock band Led Zeppelin

4 I believe the correct answer is 'probably about three paragraphs less than the example above.'