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.
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?