The Grammar Policeman’s Other Ball

I thought I read somewhere that the Associated Press Stylebook, once my bible, had surrendered the high ground on possessives for nouns ending in “s,” ditching “the Jones’ house” for the subliterate-looking “the Jones’s house.” I vowed never to go along with it, just as I’ve vowed to continue using the Oxford comma, another hill the AP handed over to the enemy.

Then I read this AP Stylebook tweet:

Screen Shot 2021-07-21 at 10.52.16 AMOkay, that’s easier to swallow. And easy to remember. Although I’ll note that the rules in the 1984 edition of the Stylebook were more nuanced. For example, with singular common nouns ending with “s,” you only added a possessive “‘s” when the next word didn’t begin with “s.” So you’d write “the virus’s reach,” but also “the virus’ spread.”

Anyway, it’s a change I can live with. Bet you’re relieved to hear me say it.

Gotta ask, though, what’s with the number of spaces after the commas in that tweet, AP Stylebook? Is it one, none, or two, depending on how you feel? Or is there still a rule?


Jesus, this interview with an Alabama doctor who’s been treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients:

One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.

A few days later when I call time of death […] I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.

They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was “just the flu.” But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.

I try to be very non-judgmental when I’m getting a new COVID patient that’s unvaccinated, but I really just started asking them, “Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine?” And I’ll just ask it point blank, in the least judgmental way possible […] And most of them, they’re very honest, they give me answers. “I talked to this person, I saw this thing on Facebook, I got this email, I saw this on the news,” you know, these are all the reasons that I didn’t get vaccinated.

And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine? And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question.

Our great-goddaughter Giorgianna is taking her summer vacation with us, helping break in the new dogs and learning to sew under Donna’s tutelage. She’s just 10, so unvaccinated. Donna wormed it out of her that her mom, Natasha, is also unvaccinated. During our nightly check-in call, Donna pleaded with Natasha to get the shot but met a solid wall of resistance. “Donna, stop,” I said, “there’s nothing you can say that’s going to change her mind.”

It’s one thing to write off anti-vaxx strangers. It’s another thing when the anti-vaxxer is family. We love Natasha. It’s so hard to see her turn into one of them.

But now I’ve read what the Alabama doctor has to say, and believe there’s something we can say to Natasha: “Have you asked your primary care doctor whether or not you should get the vaccine?” If she agrees to ask her doctor, great. We’ve done all we can. If she says she won’t ask, or did ask and decided not to get vaccinated anyway, then we’ve also done all we can. From that point on, it’s no longer any business of ours.


Remember the FBI-foiled patriot militia plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer last September? A recent Buzzfeed article details what appears to have been a massive entrapment operation by state and federal agents who had infiltrated the militia’s ranks. A key paragraph:

An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.

This reaction, from Twitter, was typical:

I don’t care if the FBI ‘entraps’ people into agreeing to blow up a bridge or kidnap the governor. Like, just don’t fucking agree to it.

Well, I care. Very much. I was the target of an entrapment operation when I was just 19 and working my first-ever job. Didn’t fall for it, but have always wondered if other targeted individuals did.

In 1966, Donna and I were living and working in Germany, newlyweds with an infant son. I was working at the main BX on Wiesbaden Air Base when a fellow employee was busted for stealing merchandise. Air Force OSI agents interrogated all the employees. I don’t know about the others, but they sweated me pretty hard, even accusing me of being involved. I didn’t know the words for it, but even as a dumb teenager I recognized the good cop/bad cop ploy and maintained my innocence.

But a few months later, after I’d been promoted to driving trucks to deliver goods to other exchanges at Air Force bases and Army posts around Germany, the OSI tried to snare me in a trap. I was delivering goods to a small Army post exchange when this guy I hadn’t seen before came up to me and said “Hey, lemme show you something.” He led me to his car and popped the trunk, which was full of new clothes, still in their packaging, price tags and all. He said “They don’t pay me what I’m worth, so I take it out in trade,” or something like that, and tried to foist some of the packages off on me. Instinct told me to have nothing to do with it. I didn’t know it was a sting. I didn’t even know what a sting was, but something stank and I got out of there as fast as I could. Talking it over with Donna at home that night, we figured out what it was. I’ve always assumed they weren’t just after me, but were trying to entrap others as well.

If someone tries to get you to do something shady, especially if it’s out of the blue, don’t go along with it. And I didn’t. But maybe others did. The question is, would they have done it on their own? Who knows?

The memory hasn’t faded. I can still see the guy, short and with curly red hair, opening the trunk of his car to show me the goods. I’ve never been able to wash the bad taste of it out of my mouth. No matter how worthy the goal, I despise entrapment. Every time I read about the FBI foiling yet another plot to blow something up or assassinate someone, I automatically assume entrapment. Catching criminals is righteous. Tricking people into going along with crimes you cooked up yourself, then busting them to bolster your own mission-accomplished statistics, is anything but.

© 2021, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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