Friday, March 11, 2005

Books Of the Times 

Everybody is upset with what passes for "children's' literature" these days. Why? For the blatant glorification of disobedience and "imagination?" For failing to instill a proper regard for adult authority? For distracting the most efficient members of our workforce with idle amusements while they ought to be focused on sewing our shirtwaists?

The people who really ought to be raising the cry of alarm are grammarians.

This past week, I looked at the work of one of the most prominent authors of books for children, a Mr. Lewis Carroll. One might think that hailing from the birthplace of our mother tongue, as Mr. Carroll does, would allow for, if not mastery, at least competence with the standardized rules of spelling and grammar. One would be wrong.

I give, as an example, this excerpt from a "poem" of Mr. Carroll's:

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

Clearly, Mr Carroll did not have a dictionary near his desk, else he might have been able to look up some actual English words. This idiotic illiteracy is not as harmless as it may seem -- will we be laughing when our children start "chortling" or acting "frumious?" I, for one, will not. And neither will the distinguished Mr. Reginald Green Rutland-Pitt, author of "Standardized Rules of Usage and Spelling In the Queen's English For Distinguished and Educated Gentlemen."

Mr. Rutland-Pitt shed some light on the condition of the fevered brain that produced this affront to literacy: "Mr. Carroll is, likely, a born imbecile, and thus should be pitied. But he is too dangerous to be tolerated, let alone published. It looks to me like semantic aphasia, demonstrated here by the meaningless pseudo-words he uses, which, to his undeveloped mind, surely at least resembled actual communication."

Next week, we take a look at the most recent novel for boys by the formerly intelligent Mr. Mark Twain, whose "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" seems to suggest that the author has recently suffered a stroke, and dictated his latest work to a speaker of one of the pagan languages.

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