My wife has taken to snapping at the TV every time the Capital Blue Cross ad appears.
The company's new slogan is "Live Fearless," and a little girl says that at the end of the commercial.
My wife always responds, "LEE!" and begins complaining anew about the ad's bad grammar.
I considered this more as grounds for earplugs than a Grammar Police opening until I got an email from one of my regular correspondents and fellow Mark Trail fans — marking her as a person of impeccable taste — who wrote the following:
"The new Capital Blue Cross advertising campaign is driving me crazy!
"Their slogan is 'Live Fearless.' Am I the only person who thinks it should be 'Live Fearlessly?"
Well, no. And she was delighted when I told her my wife also is infuriated by the slogan.
I thought about contacting Blue Cross Blue Shield to see if other people are complaining, but it occurred to me that in light of the Obamacare rollout, the timing might be poor for whimsical issues.
Besides, I did a Google search for "live fearless" and "grammar" and struggled to find anything about it. I finally came across one comment on YouTube.com under a Kansas City version of the ad where the first person wrote, "Grammatically incorrect ... should be 'live¿ fearlessly.' "
The next commenter wrote, "Who cares?"
Blue Cross could have avoided any appearance of a grammar problem by making its slogan "Be Fearless" instead, but hey, what do I know about the advertising business? Bad grammar might make an ad stand out, which I guess is what they're going for. Write memorable.
Speaking of TV, consider this reader complaint:
"It is Monday, Sept. 30, and I am watching 'Wheel of Fortune.' According to the show it is Teacher's Week. What a shame; only one teacher can play! The correct title should be Teachers' (plural possessive) Week. It is a shame that none of the teachers playing the game caught the error.
"This is similar to a new center in Whitehall. At the intersection of Route 22 and MacArthur Road, across MacArthur Road from Perkins, is the Whitehall Visitor's Center. Once again, only one visitor can avail themselves of the center. The apostrophe is misplaced again. But what can you expect? In 1972, the Whitehall teachers went on strike. One of the picket signs read 'Teacher's On Strike.' Another stated 'Teacher's Care.' Don't believe me? Go visit the Whitehall Township Public Library and ask for the 1973 yearbook. Look on page 19."
I took his/her word for it, but I would make a distinction between people who don't know plurals from possessives — extremely bad for any teacher — and confusion about whether to use a plural or singular possessive in certain ambiguous circumstances.
I agree that the teacher's and the visitor's are wrong, but I suppose "Wheel of Fortune" and Whitehall could argue, albeit unconvincingly, that they were referring to these people as individuals rather than collectively.
The same issue cropped up in a photo that a reader sent me and I used on my blog. It was a No Smoking sign in a hotel. In all caps, it said, "For our guest's convenience, this has been designated as a non-smoking room." The reader who sent it remarked, "I guess the hotel has only one guest."
Again, I suppose the hotel could argue that it meant whatever guest is in the room at this time.
When you say "Teacher's on Strike," there's no defense. You need to tear your picket sign up and start over.
I just received another example, also in a school setting, in a press release from a local elementary school. I decided to be uncharacteristically nice and not mention which one, mostly because I think the event itself was such a great idea.
The press release read, "[The school] interviews local veteran's as part of Veteran's Day event."
Actually, they not only turned the plural "veterans" into a possessive, they also screwed up the Veterans Day holiday, which does not take an apostrophe. And if it did, it wouldn't be for just one veteran, so it would be Veterans' Day.
One more TV reference, from a reader who wrote that he enjoyed my column on the Founding Fathers' (note the plural possessive) grammar. I argued that the Constitution's phrase "a more perfect union" is not bad grammar, because perfection in most cases is unattainable.
This reader offered a very similar explanation from the TV show "The Big Bang Theory." He wrote:
"Stuart, owner of the comic book store frequently visited by the show's characters, tells Sheldon Cooper that he couldn't be 'more' wrong about something. Sheldon bristles and says that 'wrong' is an absolute and has no gradations. Stuart explains that while it is slightly wrong to call a tomato a vegetable, it is very wrong to call it a suspension bridge!"
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