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
Satisfactory progress towards the degree
is necessary in order to achieve the goal of completing an academic
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
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.
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.
SEEKS LENGVITCHES I AHM SPIKKING,
ANGLITCH DE BAST
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
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
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.
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.
THE IMMORTAL WORDS OF. . .
. . . Norman Mayall, in a memo of January
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.
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
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.