Picture: From the Sir Charles Grandiose Archives
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March 26, 2001

One's readers (and one has it upon an unassailable authority that this august assemblage is so numerous that were each a single bacilli of anthrax, not only could they infect the eighty-four claimants that stand before the incipient Queen Young Penelope Windsor-Smythe and the throne, but the additional pretenders numbered eighty-six and on) know that one is a stalwart watchdog of the English language. Yes indeed, a stalwart watchdog with slavering jowls and pointy teeth, straining at his chain to gnaw upon the bones of trespassers. One is a particularly fine writer, oneself. One prides oneself upon one's usage. When it comes to the common mistakes of the language, one simply don't make them.

Thus one finds it particularly puzzling that week after week, certain readers take it upon themselves to criticise one's opening statement. One's cri de coeur, as it were. "Weekly," one states at the commencement of one's long-running foray into the rough seas of the human soul, "one sits here in one's estate of Blandsdown, dictating to one's fleet of servants one's penetrating and canny insights into the affairs of the hoi polloi." Like Bunyan's Pilgrim, an innocent on his way to the Kingdom of Heaven, one treads the path one has made for oneself.

And yet with distressing regularity the would-be scholars step onto one's yellow brick road and halt one's progress. "Sir Charles," says Snot-nosed the Scholar. "Are you not aware that the phrase hoi polloi is Greek? And that literally translated, it means 'the masses?' Thereby, your use of the phrase 'the hoi polloi' means 'the the masses'.  I thought a baronet such as yourself would know these things." Great glee is always the response of Snot-nosed the Scholar, to find himself 'one up' on a baronet esteemed for his wealth and title.

Thus to all the would-be scholars out there who would presume to promote their own scraps of knowledge as an all-encompassing education, let one assure you that modern experts in usage agree that it is pedantic and unreasonable to insist on a literal interpretation of this particular phrase. We do not speak Greek. We speak English. And it is perfectly acceptable to say 'the hoi polloi.' Even great English authors thoroughly conversant in Greek use the phrase--and if it is good enough for Dryden and Byron, it should be good enough for Snot-nosed the Scholar of Manchester, Kansas, or Capetown.

By way of further explanation, one points to the word 'alligator.' It is a phonetic approximation of the Spanish phrase, el legarto, 'the lizard.' Would Snot-nosed the Scholar, while wading in predatory waters, push up the horn-rimmed glasses upon his nose and complain, "Why in the world are you telling me to watch out for the alligator behind me? Don't you know that literally translated, 'the alligator' means 'the the lizard?'"

Actually, one rather does wish that Snot-nosed the Scholar would make that complaint in that particular situation. One rather likes the idea of him as chum.

While one is making known his concerns, might one make a plea to eliminate two particular phrases from current popular usage? The first, naturally, is that supreme expression of insolent disregard: Whatever.

The second would be the phrase "talk to the hand, because the face ain't listening." One includes, naturally, all its variants, such as "talk to the fist, because the hand is p-ssed." They are not clever. They are not funny. Most of all, they are not particularly appropriate in facilitating discourse between two adult conversationalists.

With that advice, one thus remains for yet another week everyone's favourite baronet,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Eddie writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

So there's this girl and she's like, really fine and I said to her if she'd like to go out and she said to me like, no way and so I'm trying to impress her and everything but nothing seems to be working and she won't even play with the Playstation II and I don't know what else I can do to attract her so what do I do thank you?


Sir Charles replies:

Dear Eddie,


Talk to the digits, because your intelligence-spavined letter gave this baronet the fidgets.

Yawning, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Bush Scribe writes:

Dear Sir Charles,

I have just this moment perused the fruits of your poetical Genius, and I must say that I too am taken with the muse of Poesy.  I do find that the evenings here in the Colonies can be rather dull, & what with the tedious bleats of sheep, the irritating chirp of the Kangaroo and not to mention the beastly cursing of the Swagmen, I have turned to Poetry as my saviour. 

I ask you, as one Romantic to another, to please offer Advice & Encouragement to an aspiring Scribe of the Bush. Here is a small ode i composed whilst observing the Natives in their Natural State.

Oh Hottentot of the Southern Land!
So proud and dark and Mild
do help us understand
your Brown land so hot and wild!

through Elysian fields you roam
pic - a - ninny and Spear by your side
you do not have a Home
and your roof is the Galaxy so wide

so dear Native of the Bush
your Freedom shall never end
but why must you always be in a rush
to leave the company of your Pale friends?

i gave you soap i gave you flour
i gave you Clothing and Bible readings
but you ate the soap, you wouldn't shower
Oh Noble Savage you hurt my feelings

So my bush friends i must bid you Farewell!
return when you have covered your Nakedness
or when you have some Boomerang to sell
and return to my Patronising caress.

Do please excuse the meter, i find this Iambic Pentameter so very trying.

Yours in Poesy and anticipation,
A Bush Scribe.

Sir Charles replies:

My dear aspiring poet,

One begs merely one simple thing of you: Do not--under any circumstances, no matter how tempting they may be--foreswear the employment that occupies such time as Apollo, in his fiery wing'd chariot, crosses the blue expanse known to us as the sky. Eh?

Moving swiftly onwards, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

Concerned Wife writes:

Sir Charles,

My husband's just home from the hospital. He's had heart problems, you see, and his life was saved only by a donor.

Now he's worried about organ rejection. I tell him not to worry about it so much. A positive attitude means a lot, don't you think?

A concerned wife

Sir Charles replies:


A positive attitude is indeed everything, especially over such a trivial matter. Why, three nights a week since we have been married the Lady Felicia has given one gentle rebuffs, and does one become enraged or upset? Not at all. Does one worry? Not in the least. One carries on, and tries again!

And if anyone is an expert on organ rejection, it is Sir Charles Grandiose.

Urging the poor fellow onwards, one remains,
Sir Charles Grandiose

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