Thursday, October 07, 2004

Eyebrows Irritates Local Culturati (or at least their PR team)

As Eyebrows is a very culturally literate young woman, almost the first thing Eyebrows did upon arriving in Peoria was secure season tickets to the symphony. For Eyebrows, live symphonic music is like light and air; it is as necessary a part of life as food and potable water.

Yet as with so many of the best things these days, Eyebrows's season tickets came with mailing lists attached, both snail and e-. Which she really doesn't mind, as the Peoria Civic Center hosts pretty much every event in Peoria, from the truly excellent quilt show last summer to all the big rock concerts.

Now, Eyebrows has long been a T.S. Eliot fan. Eyebrows's mother can recite the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock from memory, and indeed recited this sweet lullaby to Eyebrows when she was but a babe in arms. So it was only natural that Eyebrows, nutured on T.S. Eliot as verily as she was on her mother's milk, and agreeing with Chartier that the cat is one of but two aesthetically perfect things in the world, would eventually fall in love with Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, and of course with its fine successor, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical extravaganza known simply as Cats.

But of course Eyebrows's mind was not on the sublime greatness of Eliot when she opened her e-mail from the Peoria Civic Center. No, Eyebrows's mind was on more mundane matters, so when she saw an e-mail subject line proclaiming "Cat's special offer tickets!" she immediately assumed that Caterpillar was giving away free tickets, or providing a discount or something - just the kind of thing the fine men and women at Caterpillar would do for this fair city.

No, no. Silly Eyebrows, being misled by poor grammar. No, of course what the Civic Center's PR department meant to say, in an e-mail sent to tens of thousands of central Illinoisians, was that there was a special offer on tickets to the musical Cats. As any grammar stickler with a 3rd-grade education, or any English-speaker with an 8th-grade one, knows, "Cat's special offer tickets" indicates that the special offer in question belongs to a cat (or Caterpillar).

Eyebrows cannot let such brutal misuse of the English language go unchallenged, at least not since she read Lynne Truss's fine Eats, Shoots and Leaves and discovered to her delirious joy that she is not the only person on the planet that refuses to shop at supermarkets that boldly declare their express lanes to serve only those with "15 items or less," a cacophanous construction that brutalizes the ear of all decent and God-fearing Americans, rather than the sublimely euphonious (and grammatically correct) "15 items or fewer."

So Eyebrows shot off a quick and supremely polite e-mail to the persons responsible for the advertisement in her inbox, informing them of the proper uses of the apostrophe, and that the creation of plurals was not on that list. She felt that surely so large an organization should be made aware of such unprofessional slips, particularly when being sent to the symphony-ballet-and-0pera crowd.

Eyebrows's grammatical vigilance was rewarded with a polite, if slightly chilly, response that such a mistake would not happen again, and that the fine folks at the Civic Center hoped she was not in any way inconvenienced. Eyebrows continued about her day with the glow that only the morally superior can truly enjoy, and she slept the sleep of the innocent that night.

But alas, Eyebrows may have won the battle, but she seems to have lost the war. For on this very evening, another missive from the PR office arrived, warning her that it is her "Last Chance to save on Cats' Tickets!" Woah - thank God someone warned Eyebrows that her feline companions a) had tickets and b) were willing to sell them at a discount! Eyebrows sent further grammatical helpfulness into the void of 1s and 0s that is cyberspace, but she holds out little hope. Surely the next circular will advertise that "Cat's' tickets' are almo'st s'old out!" What, after all, will that little "s" do if not constantly surrounded by nice spikey apostrophes? It could be attacked by exclaimation marks at any moment, if the apostrophes aren't there to protect it! God forbid someone let an "s" go by without protecting the "s" with as many random apostrophes as possible!

The moral of today's story, boys and girls, is:

The secondary morals, for those readers who like moralism in large doses, are:

1) "Last Chance to save on Cats' Tickets" is not only apostrophe abuse, but a truly bizarre selection of words to capitalize. (It should be either "Last Chance to Save on Cats Tickets" or "Last chance to save on Cats tickets" or even the circus-like "Last Chance To Save On Cats Tickets." But the capitalization used in the e-mail is just plain random.)

2) Eyebrows is more than a little nuts. Particularly when it comes to grammar.

3) Fighting the good fight is a long and tiring battle, but the moral certitude it awards one at the end of the day is well worth the effort to return the vocative O to common usage and the appositive commas to their proper places.

Eyebrows would like to note that whoever annotated the above-linked version of the Love Song is an artist of linkage after Eyebrows's own heart. Too cool!


Anonymous said...

As you dear sainted mother, I must wonder about the word "woah" in your recent blog. Edit, edit, edit, my dear. Love and kisses.

Anonymous said...

Whoops!!! Your dear sainted mother must have left her own editing skills somewhere when she wrote her last comment. Proud of you, dear.