The Underground Grammarian is an unauthorised journal devoted to the protection of the Mother Tongue at Glassboro State College. Our language can be written and even spoken correctly, even beautifully. We do not demand beauty, but bad English cannot be excused or tolerated in a college. The Underground Grammarian will expose and ridicule examples of jargon, faulty syntax, redundancy, needless neologism, and any other kind of outrage against English.
Clear language engenders clear thought, and clear thought is the most important benefit of education. We are neither peddlers nor politicians that we should prosper by that use of language which carries the least meaning. We cannot honorably accept the wages, confidence, or licensure of the citizens who employ us as we darken counsel by words without understanding. And so, to the whole college community, to students, to teachers, and to administrators of every degree, The Underground Grammarian gives
THE WANDERING SCHOLAR
THE following specimen was collected and analyzed by our field investigator, who reads everything. Remember that. We quote in full a memo from Stanley B. Yeldell dated October 20, 1976. Even the casual reader is repelled by the jargon forward for send, commence for begin, and the unspeakable necessary and essential, but our wandering scholar explores the failures of thought and logic which always accompany bad English. And vice versa.
In reference to the above captioned matter; please be advised that the above committee will serve as a center for all complaints, problems and related matters of safety and security.
Moreover, the intent of said committee is to examine, investigate, recommend, and attempt to resolve safety and security matters that affect the welfare of this campus.
However, this committee deems it necessary and essential that the college community forward suggestions to this committee.
We hope that you will help said committee provide a vital service that has been overdue; but we maintain that we are alive and ready to commence.
This notice illustrates the avoidable ugliness, redundancy, imprecision, pretentiousness, and slovenly diction common to much writing distributed on this campus. Each fault is illustrated in the first sentence. A concern for clarity and precision would have suggested to the writer the direct statement, The Safety and Security Committee will serve as a center. . . Such directness would have saved nine words and would have avoided the clumsy vapidity of In reference to the above captioned matter and above committee. Directness would also have prevented the incompetent setting off of an introductory phrase with a semi-colon. And furthermore, directness and precision would have relieved Yeldell's nagging fear that his readers would not easily identify his committee. He might then have avoided the ugly legalese of said committee in two places.
The use of the conjunction but in the third paragraph is curiously illogical. As the common adversative conjunction, but is used to connect clauses in which the total effect of one clause is opposed to the total effect of the other. In this sentence, Yeldell apparently wants to emphasize the contrast between providing a vital service and being alive. This implies that vital service is not usually provided by committees that are alive, or that vital service is usually provided by committees that are not alive. This sentence is made even more curious by the use of maintain in we maintain that we are alive. . . Here, maintain seems to mean "to support or defend through argument." Thus the clause implies that this assertion is, at least, arguable, or that the committee may be dead. Not being familiar with the committee, however, we cannot absolutely conclude that the use of maintain is an example of slovenly diction.
The last sentence begins rather oddly with an illogical moreover, that not only reminds the reader of the misuse of but and the questionable vitality of the committee, but also conjoins these memories with an urgent request that all readers forward suggestions, complaints, and inquiries to any of the subsequent members. . . Of course, the confusion created by the misuse of subsequent is partially clarified by the final inaccurate clause, who are listed on the reverse side of this letter. Nevertheless, subsequent means "following in time or coming later than something else." Considering the questionable vitality of the committee, a reader, guided by the apparent meaning of the clause and not a charitable guess at the writer's intentions, could interpret the request to mean that complaints and inquiries should be sent to members of a later committee. Good idea.
QUOTE WITHOUT COMMENT
EVERY month The Underground Grammarian will publish examples of indecent exposure--unseemly public displays of bad English at Glassboro. Any reader who can't see anything wrong with our examples had better stop sending out memoranda.
It is important to note that these four thrusts of the college have given emphasis both to programs tending towards vocational/ occupational needs and to programs tending towards the needs of the generally educated, cultured citizen.... It is useful to analyze past and future in this bi-functional manner, however.
Mark Chamberlain, Planning for 1976-77--and Beyond, p. 2.
Your attempt to camouflage the fact you are copping out fails.
Richard Ambacher, in The Glassboro Whit, November 11, 1976, p. 3.
Next Month: A guided tour through the English Course Guide.
What Can We Do?
The Underground Grammarian does not advocate violence; it advocates ridicule. Abusers of English are often pompous, and ridicule hurts them more than violence. In every edition we will bring you practical advice for ridiculing abusers of English.
This month's target is any barbarian who says advisement. We can advise, or give advice, or even do some advising. Advisement permits nothing beyond what we can already mean with the words we have. Perhaps, by analogy to confinement, it might name a condition in which we suffer the consequence of having been advised; or, like government, it might indicate some cloud of loosely related abstractions and institutions. Those who say it to us must simply mean advising, but they fear that a clear naming of what they do will reveal how little it needs doing, and they will find themselves in the streets selling wind-up toys. Such people feel degraded unless what they do ends with -ment or some other official sound such as -ation or -ivity. Work that ends with -ing makes them nervous.
Do not boo and stamp your feet when some barbarian says advisement; it will bring reprisal, for barbarians are vindictive. Simply mutter, just loud enough to be heard, "Clickety-click-click." This requires no lip movement and suggests a wind-up toy. With a female barbarian, an equally good response is "Ding-dong," familiar to all television-addicted barbarians and suggesting some more appropriate career in cosmetics.
When advisement appears in a document sent by campus mail, smear it with something foul and return it to the sender.
ABOUT SUBSCRIPTIONS & OTHER THINGS
There are no subscriptions. We don't lack money, and we may attack you in the next issue. No one is safe.
We will print no letters to the editor. We will give no space to opposing points of view. They are wrong. The Underground Grammarian is at war and will give the enemy nothing but battle.