HUNT COLUMN: Grammar police hauled into court
Published 10:30 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023
JUDGE: Mrs. Hunt, do you know why you have been summoned before the court?
CH: I confess I’m at a loss, sir.
JUDGE: You should confess to something else. A complaint has been filed regarding your improper use of grammar in your last column.
CH: Really? I proofread very carefully, but I suppose I could have made a mistake.
JUDGE: What was the title of your last article?
CH: Umm, let’s see. Can I Get a Witness?
JUDGE: I’m not sure. CAN you? Are you able to? You’re entitled to subpoena your own witnesses.
CH: No, I mean, “Can I Get a Witness?” was the title of my last column.
JUDGE: I see. Let me ask you this. If you wanted a piece of cake from your hostess, how would you ask for it?
CH: I would say, “May I have a piece of cake?”
JUDGE: Exactly. You see where I’m going with this. Are you guilty then of using improper grammar in the headline in question?
CH: Well, technically I suppose, but you see…
JUDGE: It’s a simple yes or no question, Mrs. Hunt. Remember you’re under oath.
CH: Okay then. Yes.
JUDGE: Guilty as charged.
CH: But your honor, I would point out that there are mitigating circumstances.
JUDGE (sighing): And what might those be?
CH: I chose the title as a catchy phrase that I thought might ring a bell with readers. It’s the name of a popular song by Marvin Gaye. Writers often allude to other works in their titles, poetry and prose. I frequently do so, in the hopes that culturally literate readers…
JUDGE: Sounds like a convenient excuse to me. Sounds like PREMEDITATED abuse of the English language, and that’s even worse considering you fancy yourself a grammar guru who often takes others to task. I’m going to throw the book at you.
CH: Ooh, I like books. But you just pronounced the word “often” with a “t” sound in it. That’s technically not correct, although the nonstandard pronunciation is becoming more accepted.
JUDGE (banging gavel): Get her out of here.