Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Casebook of Quality Control Officer 896

Case 555: “Busting the News”

The streetlight had just flickered on outside my office window, and I was sorting through some paperwork. I heard the doorknob rattle and looked up to see Bug-Eye slipping in, finger to his lips. After examining the ceiling panels and flowerpots for bugs, he fell into my comfy chair, let out a sigh and shook his head.

“What is it, Bugs,” I asked. “You look all in.”

“I’ll tell ya. So many grammatical and syntactical infractions out there, I can barely catch a Z. I ran out of tickets.”

He skipped the empty ticket pad across my desk blotter.

“Okay, so go home and take a rest.”

“I will, but first, I’ve gotta tell ya…

“Tell me what?”

“Well, ya know that newscaster, Cynthia N.?”

“Well-dressed, well-groomed, well-spoken, on Channel 5?”

“That’s the one. I couldn’t believe it. Two infractions in one newscast!

“Bugs, TELL me, already!”

He peered up through beetled brows. “Said something about windows being ‘busted out.’”

“Cynthia N. said windows were ‘busted out?’ Ugly. Are you sure she didn’t say ‘shattered,’ ‘broken,’ or ‘smashed?’”

“Naaw. And there’s more. A minute later, she said some guy ‘snuck’ around a corner.”

“’SNUCK?’ Good grief! ‘Snuck’ is a non-standard corruption of the word ‘sneaked.’ It’s used only by the uneducated. Certainly not a class act like Cynthia N.!”

“Yeah, I know. I looked it up at But she did use it. With thousands of viewers as witnesses. So whatcha gonna do?”

I frowned. “She’ll be looking at two counts of aggravated verbslaughter.”

“Hey, that’s a little rough, isn’t it?”

“Bugs, the English language is going to hell in a handbasket, whatever that means. We’ve got to uphold the standards. It’s our sworn duty.”

I opened my top desk drawer and touched my QCO badge thoughtfully, then turned to gaze out the window at a few stars glimmering in the darkening sky.

“Sure, it’s a harsh sentence, but getting tough is the only way to stop these perps from infecting the rest of the population with horrible word usage. Just think of the little children, Bugs, trusting and open in front of the tube, soaking up lousy language along with pitches for Lucky Charms and Picnic Barbies. It’s enough to make you cry.”

Turning from the window, I noticed that Bug-Eye was snoring softly and drooling down his clip-on tie. Let him sleep, I thought. He’s done plenty for one day. I sneaked around the desk, stepped out, eased the door shut, then ambled over to Kelly’s to ponder the sad, broken state of our language.

After ordering a beer, I began ruminating. QCO 896 does a lot of ruminating. And a lot of beer. I wasn’t looking forward to slapping the cuffs on Cynthia. She’d have to serve 60 days of hard labor: reading the Oxford English Dictionary cover-to-cover and memorizing ”The Wordwatcher's Guide to Good Grammar & Word Usage.” But as Baretta said, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Guess he learned the truth of that statement himself later on. So I’m sorry, Cynthia, but you’re going over.

Folks, word crimes are on the rise – on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines -- and they’re dangerous. So if you see or hear of verbslaughter, nounicide, adverbial assault or any other attack on proper usage, leave me a comment for me, Quality Control Officer 896, here. Together, we just might be able to save the English language from wrack and ruin, whatever that means.

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©2009 Liz Craig
All rights reserved.

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