Ultimate Torture: Translating Column Into 'Plain English'


August 04, 1991|By Jeff Griffith

The Editor glowered. He frowned. He fulminated.

The Editor spake:"Someone hath been reading thy column."

"No way! 'Tis an incredible, baseless falsehood," retorted the Dead Politician. "Nobody readeth this rag. And if anybody were fool enough to read it, surely never would they have the fortitude and persistence to suffer the editorial page. They'd be subjected to both of us. Nay, that passeth belief."

"But I have proof," The Editor smirked.

"Surely thou sayest so; but thou hath lied to me oft before, ohVast One."

The Dead Pol began to squirm. Beads of fine sweat asserted themselves on his forehead.

"Reveal the source of this ridiculous lie," he thundered in high dudgeon.

"I have come into possession of a letter. Here in my very hand. A veritable epistle. From one who claims to be a reader," The Editor said.

He waved a wrinkled sheet of foolscap in his clawed hand. His eyes, normally red and beady, rolled and expanded, dominating his pointy head, the way fog lamps dominate the gloom. His mood approached what was, for him, glee.

"Let me see that!" screamed the DP. The faintest tinge of hysteria hadbegun to fray the edges of the dead one's voice. "This cannot be. Surely some explanation must exist."

He snatched the crumpled missive from the pale claw and devoured it with ravenous eyes.

"I see noevidence that this person hath read the column," he muttered, a lookof relief stealing slowly across his affrighted visage. "Hark. The writer thinketh that the column was about a commissioner going to bat for citizens, or about a former life, or about Consigliere Hickman's efforts to enforce the law.

"You and I vouchsafe that it was aboutnone of those things. And we ken that the writer hath run for officeherself. Like other live politicians, mayhap she readeth and hearethonly that which she would choose to read and hear."

"Sour grapes,oh Dead One. The writer asks that you be required to 'rerun the Dialogue' in plain English so that we could all understand your point of view. She thinketh that would be 'a very nice gesture.'

"I am an Editor. I am committed to making nice gestures. Nice gestures are my life.

"I order you to rewrite the column in plain English so that the faithful reader who penned this missive can understand your position."

"But what about freedom of the press?" demanded the Dead Politician.

"That fine theory has no application to you, slave." The Editor wrung his clawlike hands gleefully. His eyes had begun to regain their customary scarlet glow and narrow bead.

"But what about freedom of expression?" the Dead Politician wondered aloud.

"My wishis your command, insect! Dare you question the wisdom of The Editor?"

"But what about the truth?" The Dead Pol was beginning to feel desperate.

"The truth! The Truth! Surely thou jest!" The Editor wasovercome with mirth. "What hath the truth to do with journalism?" heasked as he fell to his knees in gales of uncontrolled laughter.

"Well, I thought that ploy worth a try," murmured the Dead Pol.

His naivete had begun to show. He hid his face in shame. To assert the Truth had been truly a desperate stunt. He had one last trick up his sleeve.

"I write not for those who are incapable of understanding my column," he argued, appealing to The Editor's sense of noblesse oblige. "Let those who cannot understand my column read the annual report of the county commissioners instead. Or the letters to the editor.Or let them watch Oprah. I write for those who understand my column,both of them, for them and them alone."

"Do my bidding! Go at once to your cell and rewrite that column so that our reader may understand!!" The Editor's voice rose in righteous indignation. The Dead Pol's rationalizations had made no dent on the formidable bulk of his intellect.

Feeling defeated, the Dead Politician retreated to his cell and began to rewrite the offending column, in obedience to the will of his lord and master, The Editor.

Soon The Editor came to the Dead Politician's cold cell; he looked over the Dead Pol's shoulder, scanning the prose marching in ragged ranks across the word processor. He smiled inwardly. Surely this were plain English; surely even theletter writer would understand these lines. These are the words he read:

"Look, Jane."

"See Spot."

"Spot is a dog."

"Spot canrun."

"Run, Spot, run."

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