GRAMMARNOIR: The wages of syntax, Part 1

GRAMMARNOIR 3: The wages of syntax

Part 1: It’s always some dame

It was late, last call long past, and I had just gotten home from the paragraph factory. I was nearly at the door, my lunch pail in one hand and Garner on Usage in the other, when she ran up to me.

“You’ve got to help me,” she said, clutching at me, her doelike eyes wide with fear. She might have been twenty.

“Easy on the waistcoat, sister,” I said. “It’s not as if it has bespoke stitching.”

“Sorry,” she gulped,’ “but I’m in terrible trouble, and you’re the only editor on earth who can help me.”

Dames. Why am I always the only one who can help them?

“All right. Sit down here on the porch. I don’t know how much trouble you’re in, but I’d get in more by taking you inside.”

She sat, trembling like a rewrite man’s hands the morning after.

“All right, poopsie, first off, what’s your name?”

“Rebecca Wurd Smith.”

“Uh-huh. And what’s the story?”

“Well, I’m a communications major.”

“Sorry to hear it. Have you considered professing vows in a religious order? Then at least they’d have to clothe you.”

“No, really, I’m ready to go to work. I’ve had five internships and freelanced for six publications. I’ve got clips,” she said, tilting her little chin proudly in the air.

“Good for you. Then you can’t need me for anything.”

“It’s not for me. It’s for my sister. You’ve got to help her.”

“No way, toots. No more Galahad stuff. I’ve got a cushy berth now—I’m a Night Content Production Manager. Do you know what a Night Content Production Manager does?”


“Neither does anyone else. That’s the beauty part. When no one knows what your job is, you can make what you will of it.”

“But you’ve got to help her. You’re the only one who can.” And she turned those blue eyes on me with a wattage that would have thawed, temporarily, a managing editor’s heart.

“Oh for Fowler’s sake, all right,” I said. “I know I’ll live to regret this. What’s your sister’s trouble?”

“Well, she’s working …”

“That’s good. That’s a start. Working where?”

“She’s on … she’s on ..”

She gulped, swallowed.

“She’s on a content farm.”


Next: How you’re gonna keep ’em down on the farm



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