A little license now and again.

Years ago I was working in a school where the head-teacher had replaced a much-loved boss. Eager to establish her presence in a community that had been dominated by her predecessor, the woman arranged a festival to celebrate an imminent milestone in the history of the establishment. What an ambitious project it turned out to be. An event worthy of PT Barnum was conceived, planned and organised totally in secret by the new incumbent. It was a classic act of “I’ll show the buggers”.

As I was perhaps the least recalcitrant member of her deeply resistant staff, she took me into her confidence and invited me to view the arrangements she had made. She read aloud the acceptance letters from the Chief Education Officer and the Lord Mayor of the city. She showed me the extravagantly colour-printed posters, flyers and programmes that had newly arrived from the printers. Each one bore the same beautifully crafted image of the school’s heraldic badge which she had painstakingly drawn by hand (This was the late 1970s and long before the digital age.) Beneath the wings of the phoenix which fanned the flames of a bright new future was the motto, “Be Strong and of Good Courage”.

Feeling anything but “of good courage”, I swallowed hard and said, “I think it’s truly wonderful, Enid, but Don’t you spell centenary with an “A”.

Some months later I was looking for new horizons. I stood in her office again and said, “I’m really surprised I was not shortlisted for that promotion. I never heard a word about my application.” She responded with ill-disguised triumph, “Well here’s a little hint dear; the next time you boast of a clean full driving licence, spell it with a “c” and not an “s”.

This all came flooding back to me when I received a note of gentle censure from a much-respected client to whom I’d sent an email to say, “I’ve put it on my diary.” “No you haven’t,” he wrote back, “you’ve put it IN your diary.” And he was right of course – if you live by the sword… (By the way forgive me for beginning the previous sentence with a conjunction and neglecting to include the modal verb.)

Then only this morning (Oh Happy Day), I read his own email referring to “a stationary box” It could only be a typographical error – I have no doubt. Should I point out the error?
Should I disingenuously reply, “What I’d really prefer is a movable box?”, or should I do the decent thing and let the matter pass unremarked?

I’ll let it pass; after all everyone deserves a little “license”.

But before I leave the subject l recall the old joke about the girl behind Woolworth’s counter who was asked, “Do you keep stationary?” She looked at the young man who’d posed the question and answered, “Only until the foreplay, and then I go really wild.”

Have a nice day. It’s a god job no-one reads my blog.

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