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A Word Geek Visits the Doctor

A Word Geek Visits the Doctor

Fun With English, Opus 3

It's a dire diagnosis for our intrepid heroine...

"We don't see you in here often, Maggie. What seems to be the trouble today?"

"Well, doctor, its this darn apostrophe, thats how it started but things has got alot worse in the past couple days. I should of came in sooner. I know."

"What exactly do you mean, 'this darn apostrophe'? I don't see any apostrophe."

"Precisely my point! It went missing where I want it, than shows up where you know it should ought not be."

"Ah, I understand. Your dilemma with apostrophe usage is just part of a much larger problem. I also detected a comma splice, shifts in verb tense and narrative voice, sentence fragments, subject-verb disagreement and misused words. When did this all start? Tell me about the progression from when you first noticed something to now."

"It started last Wednesday. Putting apostrophe's in the wrong places. If at all. After this the verb tense's are shifting all over the map, than pretty soon the run-on's began. I'm able to fake my way through until Saturday, when it got so bad my husband is correcting my grammar, let me tell you that made me loose my cool. Driving to this appointment, the words start to really become jumbled and I bleu through a few full stops Didn't get cot doing it although."

"We can add dangling participle and split infinitive to the list. Have you ever experienced anything like this in the past?"

"At age five, my mother said I confused the letters G and J."

"That's quite common and not a cause for concern at this time, but your answer did include a misplaced modifier, unless your mother aged in reverse like Benjamin Button. Let me take a look and see what else there is... Just as I suspected, your semicolon count is abnormally high. Improper use of them may well be how the illness next manifests itself."

"Now wait just a minute! I am a reconciled expert on semicolons! If anyone knows, how to use a semicolon; its me!"

"Calm down, Maggie. I'm not questioning your recognized expertise, but merely evaluating your health. Now settle back so I can check for exclamation marks, ellipses and em dashes. Mmm-hmm, all higher than normal."

"But! At least...I know how to — use them!!"

"You usually know how to use them, but you're suffering from fragmented-run-on-dangling-modifier-tense-disagreement-poor-punctuation-over-hyphenated-so-an-improbably-long-descriptive-phrase-only-counts-as-one-word-itis. In other words, you have an acute case of grammar flu."

"Grammar flu, I've never heard of it, how do you get it?"

"It's going around, affecting a lot of people, as you may have noticed. You happen to have a particularly virulent strain."

"How long does it last? I will recoup, wouldn't I?"

"Oh yes, you'll recuperate, but you have to take it easy until you're feeling better — probably two weeks. Otherwise, you risk developing the chronic form: fragmented-run-on-dangling-modifier-tense-disagreement-poor-punctuation-over-hyphenated-so-an-improbably-long-descriptive-phrase-only-counts-as-one-word-osis."

"What are the remanded course of treatment?"

"I'd recommend traveling to a location where you don't have a firm command of the language. You'll make mistakes, but they won't bother you so much, nor will they become ingrained."

"Ah geez, you think I ought to go to Canada?"

"Actually, I meant somewhere with a completely different vernacular, syntax and form of speech... On second thought, Canada will be fine."

"Skookum! I'll grab my toque, cash a cheque and exchange for some loonies and twoonies, then head up north for sure. This is gonna be great, eh?"

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