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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 16 Mar 1995 23:00:00 EST
text/plain (98 lines)
The future of writing is in the hands of the computerized
grammar-checkers.  This is a certainty.  For those who scoff at such an
advanced notion I give evidence of the computerized grammar-checker's
current state of development.  The following is Mark Twain's epic piece,
"The Bee" after grammar-checking.

The Bee
by Mark Twin [Twain]
          ["Twain" was not in the dictionary.  Suggestions were
Twin, Twine, Train.  I choose Twin as the logical and stunningly astute

     It was Maeterlinck who introduced me to the bee.
          [Maeterlinck was not in the dictionary and no suggestion
was given except to "ignore" Maeterlinck.  Maeterlinck once won the Nobel
prize for literature but this is of no importance to a grammar-checker.
After a short whiskey to brace myself, I left Maeterlinck in there,
consequences be damned!]

     I mean, in the psychical and in the poetical way.  I had had a
business introduction earlier. It was when I was a boy.  It is strange
that I should remember a formality like that so long; it must be nearly
sixty years.

     Bee scientists always speak of the bee as she.  It is because all
the important bees are of that sex.  In the hive there is one married
bee, called the monarch [queen];
          [the word "queen" was changed to "monarch" as it was too
"gender specific".  I failed to see why a "queen" shouldn't be
specific gender, namely female! Then, after two more whiskeys, I began
to see that some "queens" may not!! Queen Elizabeth I, for example, was
very likely William Shakespeare, who in turn was Lord Bacon.  The point
is that a grammar-checker never looks under a skirt; it wouldn't be

     she has fifty thousand children; of these, about one hundred are
sons; the rest are daughters.  Some of the daughters are young
housekeepers [young maids], some are old housekeepers [old maids], and
all are virgins and remain so.
          ["housekeepers" was suggested for "young maids" and "old
maids", the former being too "gender specific" and the later being
sexist!  Draining off another whiskey, I reasoned that Joan of Arc was a
notorious housekeeper!  Was she not?  She saved France with a dustpan!
There's no offense in that dustpan as it was of no particular age and
no particular sex to speak dustpan knocked your brains
out with a flawless grammar!]

     Every spring the monarch [queen] comes out of the hive and
flies away with one of her sons and marries him.  The honeymoon lasts
only an hour or two; then the monarch [queen] divorces her spouse
[husband] and returns home competent to lay two million eggs.  This will
be enough to last the year, but not more than enough, because hundreds of
bees become drowned [get drowned] every day, and other hundreds are eaten
by birds, and it is the monarch's [queen's] business to keep the
population up to standard - - [-] say, fifty thousand.
          [Notice that the grammar-checker inserted an extra dash
in this sentence.  At first, I thought I was seeing double from all the
whiskey for I knew that Mark Twain only used one dash to punctuate this
sentence.  I could not understand that blasphemous second dash until I
realized the startling truth!  It is now safe to re-punctuate Mark Twain
as he is dead and cannot own a gun.]

     She must always have that many children on hand and efficient
during the busy season, which is summer, or winter would catch the
community short of food.  She lays from two thousand to three thousand
eggs a day, according to the demand; and she must exercise judgment, and
not lay more than are needed in a slim flower-harvest, nor fewer than are
required in a prodigal one, or the board of directors will dethrone her
and elect a monarch [queen] that has more sense.
          [This last sentence was deemed "too long to process for
grammatical structure".  A further warning stated that long sentences can
be difficult to understand. I quickly downed another whiskey and
concluded that this was a fine example of perfectly circular logic.]

     There are always a few royal heirs in stock and ready to take her
place - ready and more than eager to [anxious to] do it, although she is
their own mother.
          [Mark used "anxious to".  This is incorrect unless those
"royal heirs" were of the Woody-Allen-Bee variety and had undergone
psychoanalysis.  Our grammar-checker (although obviously anti-Freudian
and in complete sexual denial) unexplainably converted those "anxious
heirs" to "eager beavers" (beavers mine).

     These girls are kept by themselves, and are regally fed and
tended from birth.  No other bees get such fine food as they get, or live
such a high and luxurious life
          [a warning stated that "luxurious" might be confused with
"luxuriant".  I made no change as bees would never make this error and
neither would Mark!]

     By consequence they are larger and longer and sleeker than their
working sisters.
          [At this point, a note popped up suggesting to consider
"there, they're or theirs" instead of "their".  This suggestion is wrong
headed.  It killed off my remaining patience.  I swung that empty whiskey
bottle up in the air with full intention of braining that idiot
grammar-checker before I passed out.....]