Ramon Presson

It’s a typical early afternoon in the Springfield Police Department’s Grammar Division when the phone rings.

Presson: This is Lieutenant Major Presson with the Grammar Police, how can I help you?  

Caller: I want to report a church sign that says "Guest's Welcome" instead of "Guests Welcome." 

Presson: That's a clear violation of code 457.19 

Caller: What is code 457.19? 

Presson: 457 means misuse of an apostrophe. The second number specifies the apostrophe error. In this case the 19 denotes an apostrophe wrongly suggesting a possessive noun when in fact no apostrophe was needed. In this case Guests would be plural noun, not a possessive noun.

Caller: And who wants an insecure, possessive noun, right?

Presson: Excuse me?

Caller: Never mind. So, I did the right thing by calling? 

Presson: Yes, you did. Dispatch will send one of our grammar compliance and correction officers to the site right away.

Caller: What's going to happen to them?

Presson: Depends on if this is a first-time offense or not. If so, they'll likely get just a warning.  

Caller: What if they've had prior typos or grammar errors on their sign?

Presson: For repeat offenders the penalties range from paying a fine, taking an English class at the community college, or passing a four-hour sign exam using Scrabble letters. 

Caller: Wow, that's major, Lieutenant.

Presson: It's actually Lieutenant Major. And yes, the penalties are stiff but we took the Lindley Murray oath and we have important grammatical rules to uphold. 

Caller: The Lindley Murray oath?

Presson: Lindley Murray is considered the father of English grammar. 

Caller: Of course, how did I forget? Well, officer, thank you for your service. 

Presson: Thank you, citizen.  And be on the lookout for comma splices out there. They're very comma-n this time of year. Common, Comma-n… get it?

Caller: Yea, I get it. Hey, if I witness a dangling participle in progress can I call Crime Stoppers and get a reward?

Presson: Are you mocking me right now?

Caller: Sorry. Hey, are the errors just regarding signage? What if I see a typo or spelling error in a newspaper headline or in a Facebook post? Should I report it?

Presson:  Can you give me an example?

Caller: Well, like the other day, a local donut shop had a special on their Facebook page for what I think was supposed to be Bavarian crème donuts.

Presson: So, what’s the problem. 

Caller: The post said “Barbarian crème.”

Presson: Barbarian crème donuts? Ewww, I don’t want to even think about what’s inside one of those! 

Caller: So, I should have reported that?

Presson: Definitely. See, this is why I don’t text while driving.  The danger of a typo or an undetected embarrassing auto-correct is just too great a risk.

Caller: I know what you mean. I once sent a group-text to my Sunday School class inviting them to our house for a fondue.

Presson: And…

Caller: Auto-correct changed it to a fondle. True story.

Presson: You invited your Sunday School class over to your house for a fondle? My gosh, what kind of church do you attend??

Caller: The next Sunday the pastor saw me in the hallway and cracked up laughing. 

Presson: News travels fast in church.

Caller: Yea, well that was over two years ago, and he says he still can’t look at me while he’s preaching.

Presson: Hold on a sec…

(The caller hears a muffled voice on a speaker phone.)

Presson: Citizen, I gotta run. One of our detectives is in involved in a high-speed car chase.

Caller: The Grammar Police gets involved in car chases?

Presson: Female driver in a Lexus SUV, has a big advertisement sticker on her back windshield that says “Let Me Help You with Waist Management.” 

Caller: I believe that’s a play on words, not a spelling error. You know, a pun.  Her next line could be, “Don’t weight around. Call now.” Get it? Instead of don’t wait around…

Presson: Yea, I get it. I’ve got another call coming in. Goodbye, sir. (activates next call) Hello,this is Lieutenant Major Presson with the Grammar Police, how can I help you?

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at [email protected]

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