The Curious Grammatical Case of Les Miles

 

Hi. My name’s Dan, and I am a grammaholic.

Hi, Dan.

I’m so glad I found this group. This is my first GA meeting.

Bob, congratulations on your one-year chip. For me, as a newbie, it is really hard to comprehend that you faced three “should have wents” this week in total silence. The self-discipline you showed is what I’m here to learn. I had one myself this week. I tried, but the sirens’ call came from my dark place.

Tell us about that, Dan.

This is hard. See my face, this shiner?

What happened?

I was in a bar, drinking away a fight with my wife. She actually said, as we woke up, “I could have laid here all day.”

You all know why I drank.

Lie, lay, lain benders are the worst,” a fellow Grammaholic said quietly into the steam off her styrofoam cup of GA coffee.

So, anyway, four bikers watched a football game in a booth behind me. One team was down by eight in the second quarter and scored. They kicked the extra point. One said it.

They should have went for two.”

I walked over, drawn by that tractor beam – you all know that invisible force telling you people want, nay, need to know what is right grammatically. I tapped him on the shoulder, directly on the Lyrnyd Skynyrd patch on his leather vest, above the White Power tattoo, for Christ’s sake.

He turned around, snarling through his tooth.

What do you want,” he said.

“They should have GONE for two,” I uttered with a wagging finger.

That’s the last thing I remember before waking up on the floor. That’s the insidiousness of this disease.

This was bound to happen to me. Thanks genetics. Grammaholism runs in my family. My father suffered his demons. “Impact” was his drug of choice, with a “disinterested” chaser.

We’d have a nice family dinner. The evening news would be on the TV. It would begin as innocently as that. Then, invariably, it would happen. He’d hear it, like a dog whistle, the rest of us oblivious.

The anchor might say, “President Carter said today it was unknown what impact this development will have on the hostages.”

He’d stop chewing. He’s stop talking. He’d shake. A sarcastic tsunami of rhetorical questions flooded from his mouth:

“Oh, is that development going to hit the hostage crisis like a meteor impacts the Earth? Is that development going to leave a crumpled bumper, like when a car impacts a telephone pole?”

We’d then get the inevitable definition of impact: “Impact — The action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.”

The night was ruined. God help us if someone that night who was not interested in something said they were “disinterested.”

Oh, you’re impartial, unbiased?” he’d say with dripping sarcasm.

So, why am I here? Some say there is a moment of clarity, a time when you see your problem.

Mine is Les Miles. Les effen Miles.

That hurts to even hear, doesn’t it? It’s difficult to even say. No one here has corrected me. This either means GA and these meetings really work or you’re not football fans. I hope it’s the former.

Well, Les Miles – I still want to scream “Fewer” Miles – is, or was, a college football coach. He led the LSU Tigers to a national title before being fired recently. It was his firing, and the onslaught of media coverage, that sparked my moment of clarity.

Fewer. Freakin’ fewer. My crack, my crystal meth, my heroin, my fuhrer.

I mean, is it so hard to communicate clearly and precisely in English? Really, we need fewer people who use “less” improperly, and the less society accepts the use of “less,” there will be fewer users like me feeling worthless and spending less time in fewer meetings, right?

It’s not hopeless, is it, for me to think that there are a few of you who more or less understand that the less use of “less” in favor of “fewer” is not useless? It’s not pointless. Rather the less use of less by fewer careless users can be used to cause fewer “less” problems for the “fewer” hopeless, like me, right?

Again, clear communication is not hard.

So, back to Les Miles. Pundits, anchors, LSU’s athletic director, his players and basically anyone with a mic in front of their face kept saying it that week: “Les Miles.”

A mic in front of his face,” the newbie with a “their/his” addiction next to me corrected, to disapproving stares from the circle. “Sorry.”

Yes, uh hm, his face. Thank you.

Anyhow, for a Grammaholic with the “less-fewer” monkey on my back, this was more than I could take. I’d chase the fewer dragon as I switched channels, hoping in vain, for the fewer high, like that first time I heard it used correctly. I was literally convinced some bleach-blonde reporter outside the LSU practice facility would say it.

Fewer Miles” I’d hear in my head, only to be washed away, time and time again, by “Les Miles,” furthering my descent into the gutter of grammatical madness.

The week after his firing, as “Les Miles” dominated the college football airwaves, I fixated. Shocker, I know. Abbot and Costello scenarios infected my brain.

A recurring one was an English class while Coach Miles was in high school:

Coy, why are you late?” the English teach would ask.

Sorry I’m late, but I had to drive Les Miles today.”

Fewer,” she’d say.

Late because drove Les Miles,” Coy responded, puzzled.

Fewer, Coy.”

“Late Les Miles?”

“Fewer.”

“Late LM?”

Another one is where …

Folks, I need to shut this down,” a janitor interrupted from the back of the room. “I hate to impact your meeting, but I have went and cleaned all the other rooms. I ain’t go no more to do. There’s less chairs than last week but stack ‘em please, irregardless.”

I stay in my chair, silent.

Oh my God, people, GA works!

 

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