In her hilarious book, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, comedian Paula Poundstone talks about her aversion to computers. She doesn’t use them. She doesn’t trust them. And she’s not exactly convinced they’re a great thing for society.
Her Exhibit A: She once got an e-mail, printed out by her assistant, that contained just one line: “Is this really your e-mail?” Her closing argument: Nobody sent stuff like that back when doing so meant finding a stamp and licking an envelope.
I’m a member of the “loves computers” camp, but found myself tempted to switch sides yesterday after getting an e-mail from a reader of my weekly column.
The column, which runs in a handful of community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas, offers mini-grammar lessons. True, it isn’t exactly the dream of my early journalism career. Young reporters often start out vowing, “I’m going to be just like Woodward and Bernstein.” They never vow, “I’m going to be just like Funk and Wagnall.” Still, I have a few readers who enjoy it.
Apparently, I also have some readers who do not, as evidenced by yesterday’s e-mail. It came on the heels of a column I wrote about clauses (and which, apparently, one editor titled "Baring My Clause"). Here's the reader's e-mail, unedited.
"Baring my clause" Could not find in the dictionary the following words you used descriptor,nonetheless,subset. A strange article what meaning does it have? My conclusion,another modern day gumsnapper trying to be different,as in blog,reditt etc. You are a product of schools failing.
It ended there. The sender did not give a name.
For a moment, I was ready to join Poundstone’s camp. But just as I was about to drop my laptop out a two-story window, I had an idea. I went to Dictionary.com, entered a few terms, then began composing my reply.
My e-mail reply contained just four lines: a URL linking to the definition of “descriptor,” another linking to the definition of “nonetheless,” and another linking to the definition of “subset.” The fourth and final line was a link to my Dictionary.com search results for the word “gumsnapper”: a link that showed there's no such word.A pretty adept use of technology, I thought, for “a product of schools failing.”
Oh, and one more thing, Ms. Poundstone: The guy clearly wanted to remain anonymous. But he was unaware that his e-mail server wasn’t as shy. His name is Anthony Cibello.
That’s all for today. I’m taking my computer out for a romantic picnic followed by a few hours of passionate defragging. I love it that much.