Unedified, what with this and what with that, I eagerly tuned in the public-television channel hoping to be edified by a program about grammar, syntax, and the broad art of linguistic communication. There was a fanfare of introduction, suited to the theme and highly cultural, and a somewhat elaborate technical introduction of the performing expert. He, thus introduced, approached and took a seat on a center-stage stool. Then he spoke. He said, ''Whenever anybody, anywhere, anytime, speaks, they're ... ''
I timed myself once, and I can get my feet off the hassock, unwind my angularities, arise, cross the living room, and turn off the television set in eight seconds. The night they showed the bears on the Churchill dump, I made it in seven seconds, but broke off the knob. Just before I tuned in, and then turned off that TV program, I had discarded a newspaper because it said certain vaguarities should give us needed incite, so all in all my postprandial and precouchement hour was less than helpful to a yearning spirit seeking improvement. I was fitful until I retired, and then I dreamed all night in the passive periphrastic.
You should know that one of my constructive pleasures has been to mark quick glances. This goes back to a high school teacher I loved then and have loved for (Gracious!) 58 years. She was paid $800 a year, but the school committee gave her an extra $100 for coaching the speaking contests. She taught Latin, French, English, and some history, and did dressmaking on the side. One day she assigned a theme about taking a walk in the woods, and we all wrote something about taking a walk in the woods. Mine was the first thing I ever had published, because this teacher gave it to the school paper. It was about a blind man who scares up a ruffed grouse, an experience much like having a bomb set off at your feet. So after this teacher read all the themes about walking in the woods, she began the next class by saying: ''I'm proud to find that I have made progress, and my teaching career has not been in vain. Out of this assignment, I got only three quick glances.''
She said her previous low had been 10.
A glance is a quick look, so whenever I am reading something and come across a quick quick look, it leaps at me like the Pacific at stout Cortez. I reach for a pencil and circle it and hope somebody, somewhere, sometime, will take notice. One of my proudest moments was when a fellow townsman confided that there is some kind of a nut hereabouts who goes through books in the village library and circles quick glances.
I also work on you-knows. Originally, I proposed a fine of $100 on every baseball player who spits while on TV, and later realized we could fund the national debt if every baseball player who says you-know were fined $500. In one dugout interview before a Red Sox game the player and the announcer combined for 38 you-knows, and in one sentence the player said it three times. I say ''sentence,'' lacking something more precise for the incoherence of three you-knows about an infield pop to short.
The local paper recently had a story about the ''resignment'' party given a teacher who retired. It seems there had been concern about weaknesses amongst the freshmen entering high school, so a language arts course had been set up to teach incoming freshmen what the teachers hired to teach them had not been teaching. For 18 years this retiring schoolmarm had been handling the language arts with big success and her resignment was deplored. I gather language arts cover the I-could-or-would-or-should basics that, lacking, bring on quick glances, irrelevant antecedents, you-knows, and split infinitives. I always say that to, openly and wantonly, with forethought and intent, it takes a good deal more work than if you do not, split an infinitive. A good English infinitive has every right to properly and proudly, not to say honestly and sincerely, be.
Those are my sentiments, and I'm planning to extend my labors to include close scrutinies, which congressmen have been taking of many matters.