Volume One, Number Four............April 1977


...all that a University, or final highest School can do for us, is still but what the first School began doing,--teach us to read. We learn to read, in various languages, in various sciences; we learn the alphabet and letters of all manner of Books. But the place where we are to get knowledge ... is the Books themselves! It depends on what we read, after all manner of Professors have done their best for us. The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.

Thomas Carlyle

TO OUR SHAME, we must tell our readers on other campuses a sad truth: Glassboro State College is not the citadel of learning that it must seem to those whose impressions of it come from The Underground Grammarian. We have, for instance, no library. We have a learning resources center.

Names count. Something happens in the frequenter of libraries that doesn't happen in the utilizer of learning resources centers. The one takes water from a spring; the other checks out with a six-pack of diet Pepsi.

Administrators who think of themselves as "managers" and think of schooling as "production" know that a mind is at last overthrown by repeated cant. If we form the habit of calling a library a name that smacks of a place where transmissions are repaired, then we will come to believe that the nurture of the mind and the repair of the transmission are qualitatively similar, and that educated people can be produced. This is false.

Good teachers may guide and impel, but educated people are all self-educated, having read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested many books. Many have actually become educated without filmstrips and thus learned to write good English along the way.



THE successful bureaucrat knows how to keep his head down and his business out of other peoples' noses. It is difficult, for instance, to uncover a specimen of the public English of our unobtrusive Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Lawson J. Brown. The Underground Grammarian, however, has a long nose and has sniffed out the following.

Effective September 1, 1976, the drop/add procedure, as well as the withdrawal process for individual courses are revised to comply with the revisions of these policies.

Well, Brown is surely a successful bureaucrat, but the real comer knows enough to cast a little of his bread on the water and slip a piece of his own take--$34,510 in this case--to an educated secretary who can manage commas and make verbs agree with subjects. After all, somebody in a vice-president's office should have enough education to wonder about the difference between a course and an individual course, and to be at least hesitant about revising procedures to comply with a revision of policies.

The letter from which the quote is taken is dated June 17, 1976, and appears on the front cover of a barbaric brochure intended to explain Academic Standing Policies. We don't know who wrote the text. Brown's letter says only that "a brochure has been prepared"--the buck-passing passive which suggests that no one does these things; they just happen. All we can do is condemn the brochure for letting itself be prepared as a horrible example.

It starts with an arresting assertion, a pithy thematic statement of thesis and just the sort of thing a vice-president thinks:

Satisfactory progress towards the degree is necessary in order to achieve the goal of completing an academic program...

And later we read that "the grade of INC must be absolved before the end of the following academic semester." And the "actions" which may be taken are "dismissal," "probation," and "continue." And at one point--a mystical proposition:

If upon appeal to the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures, it is judged that the student is not making unsatisfactory progress but his/her progress toward the degree is still less than satisfactory, said student will be placed on probation.

Did Lawson J. Brown write all that rubbish? If so, we think he might serve us better as vice-president for something else, campus planning maybe. If not, did he read it? If he could find no fault in that stuff, we think he might serve us better as vice-president for something else, campus planning maybe. Maybe he didn't read it, but blithely sent it out into the world to shame us all. In that case, we think he might serve us better as vice-president for something else, campus planning maybe.

+Valiant agents of the grammatical underground report that Lawson J. Brown reads this journal very closely, hoping to find grammatical errors. That'll be the day.



HERE are two messages from our Placement Office, the first in an undated memo from one Betsy McCalla, the second (we can hear Mumford now--Dammit Betsy!) rewritten in the Newsletter of February 24, 1977. Italics are added:

On March 1st and 2nd, 1977, Career Awareness Days will be held...It's purpose is to inform the students on our campus the different kinds of careers one can explore after graduation from college.

On March 1st and 2nd, 1977, Career Awareness Days will be held...The purpose is to inform the students on our campus of the different careers one can explore &c...

We applaud the insertion of of. We have gloomy doubts about the change from It's purpose to The purpose; we fear that the rewriter, having discovered that days was plural, tried They're purpose, felt vaguely uneasy about it, and settled safely on The purpose.

That's the good news--he tried. The third sentence, alas, shows that the second wasn't needed at all. Here is McCalla's version:

Over 100 representatives from different careers will be available to speak to the students...

From this sentence any fool can figure out the purpose; the rewriter has saved a mess of bathwater in which there never was a baby.

The third sentence, however, brings the rewriter a new problem: "representatives from different careers" sounds unEnglish. (Good to hear, though. Some Career Awareness Days have 100 representatives from identical careers.) The phrase is an excellent test of the Bulgarian Hypothesis, which asserts that whatever sounds natural in a thick Bulgarian accent ought to be changed. Try it: How dew you dooink? I ahm rahpresentahteev frahm kahreer. Sounds fine.

How does Mumford (it must be Mumford) deal with this? Well, naturally, he turns careers into career areas, confident, like us, that no self-respecting Bulgarian would go that far.


. . . Norman Mayall, in a memo of January 31, 1977:

I do want to point out that in the event of any difficulty, i. e. fines, arising over your compliance, this will be totally your liability.

Brief Notes

WE ARE GLAD to report that culprits ridiculed by The Underground Grammarian are being ridiculed on other campuses (eight so far) from Boston to Berkeley and from Minnesota to LSU. Be comforted, therefore, if we expose you in print; think of the free publicity! How pleasant, at a conference in Kansas City, to find that strangers recognize your name. Such friendly smiles!

For last January's Grammarian we had prepared a commentary on a crudely written open letter from Richard Ambacher to some now forgotten apparatchik in Trenton. Short of space as usual, all we could do was cite a single sentence in Quote without Comment and file the analysis for future use. Now we hear from an agent that Ambacher, even with the help of some friends, just can't see what's wrong with that sentence. Well, it figures.

Letters, queries, brief comments on grammatical matters, may be sent to:

The Underground Grammarian

Post Office Box #203

Glassboro, New Jersey 08028

Horrible examples gratefully accepted.

Typos and comments:

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