Mary Ann Ellis

As Larry and I sit watching a television show, it’s not unusual at all for him to pause the show to expound on some inconsistency he’s noticed. For example, one night we were watching “Criminal Minds.” When a character started strapping on his artificial leg, Larry hit the pause button. 

 “Look at that,” he said. “That’s not the way to do that at all. In reality, they have seamless socks that fit over the stump and then the prosthesis goes on over that. Today there’s a gel padding, too.” 

I just looked at him and rolled my eyes. He knows very well how I feel about his useless trivia. 

Out of nowhere, he’ll tell me that the dot over the letter i is called a tittle and that Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time. That information is just for my enlightenment because it popped into his mind when I happened to be available for instruction. However, he really gets fired up if we’re watching a show with weapons of any kind and they make an error. I guarantee that the average viewer doesn’t notice, but my spouse does—always. Actually, he catches several per show. 

 “Did you hear him call that a 327 magnum?” he asks me irately, his thumb held firmly on the pause button. “Everybody who knows anything at all about weaponry knows better than that. That’s a 357 magnum. There’s no such weapon as a 327 magnum. It’s obvious that they didn’t do their research very well. All they had to do was Google it.” 

It’s never obvious to me because I don’t know what to look for. I lose myself in the plot and don’t pay any attention to such trivial details. Even if I notice something that doesn’t work, it doesn’t bother me much. I tell Larry that he missed his calling. He should have been a teacher so he could share on a daily basis all those useless facts that bounce around in his head. Maybe these facts could fit under the category of history. Who knows? As it is, I am his only student and a most reluctant one at that. Every good teacher knows that the educating process is more successful if the student actually cares about the subject matter. I don’t. Occasionally, I do get a little revenge.

 “Larry, did you know that Shakespeare used some 17,677 words in his plays, sonnets, and narrative poems, and he was the first to coin 1700 of these words?” I ask him casually over morning coffee. 

 “Now, why would I know that?” he queries. “I read Louis L’Amour and W.E.B. Griffin, not Shakespeare.”

Actually, Larry and I have been avid readers all our lives and we both have more than a generous smattering of those tidbits rattling around in our brains. They tend to come out at the most interesting times. 

Larry is highly annoyed by errors in television shows, but he is truly incensed by errors in books, especially those by his favorite authors.

 “If I’m going to buy and read their books, I expect them to do adequate and accurate research,” he grumbles when he encounters an error, which is often. 

Even though I pretend that I don’t understand his irritation, I really do, to some degree. It’s like my finding a glaring grammar error in a novel. (If you hate grammar errors, then avoid Stephen King entirely.) Granted, there are editors responsible for the grammar and usage in novels, but I’m just convinced that good writers should watch out for their own works and make them correct in the first place. 

I discovered that the comma and the semi-colon are used interchangeably in British English; not so at all in good old American English. An American comma isn’t strong enough to hold apart two independent clauses. And what a fine tidbit of useless trivia to end this column upon. Larry will indeed be proud that I seem to be slipping into his habits.