LATELY — 17 March 2003

No Such Men As We Fable

Oh! what fun it is to discover the flaws of the thitherto irritatingly flawless! On this subject, Faustus, M.D.:

Last night, while catching up on blogs I read, I got to one that I have always secretly hated with a white-hot passion because I think it’s funnier than mine.

Then I caught not one but two grammatical errors in recent posts.

This filled me with an ineffable, almost palpable joy. He may be funnier than I am, but he is guilty of both hypercorrection (he used “whomever” when he ought to have used “whoever”) and a subject-verb-mood disagreement so egregious it could only have been committed by mistake or by a madman; either way, whether he’s careless or insane, I win.

(I know this feeling well–pretty much exactly this feeling, in fact.)

A not-quite-equivalent example: I do not claim that this is a noble response but relief is what I felt when I discovered that Donald Knuth–great computer scientist, author of the definitive The Art of Computer Programming, cheeringly inflexible aesthete–was not, in fact, a good lecturer: he mumbled, he moved too slowly, he wasn’t engaging.

“But there are no such men as we fable,”? said Emerson. “There is none without his foible. I believe that if an angel should come to chant the chorus of moral law, he would eat too much gingerbread, or take liberties with private letters, or do some precious atrocity.” (From “Nominalist and Realist.”)

Men, I’m terrificly behind on email. I’ll get there.