Textuary

Data's Contractions

An old letter to a student newspaper that still amuses me out of context. Strange, I don't even like Star Trek that much...

Dear Woroni,

Having contributed advertising blurbs for the ANU Film Group for two issues of Woroni so far, I've noticed something rather unusual. Whenever I've used contractions, that is, two words made into one with the aid of an apostrophe, they've mysteriously changed into their expanded equivalent by the time they reach the printed page. (There you go: "they've". I bet that gets printed as "they have".)

This leads me to an inescapable conclusion: Woroni has somehow acquired the copy-editing services of Lt. Commander Data of the Federation Starship Enterprise. (Hence the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" photo on the cover of the first issue.) "Next Gen Trekkies", as sadsters who memorise every detail of this TV show are known, will know that Data (being an android) can't use this handy linguistic device. How frustrating it must be for him, not being able to say "she'll" (as in "she'll be right, Captain Picard"). Data knows what such words mean, of course, or else he wouldn't be able to understand the other crew members half the time: yet his evil, twisted inventor has for some reason prevented him from ever speaking those same words. Poor Data will never know what it is to be completely human. Tragic, isn't it.

Of course Data has disguised his presence on the Woroni staff, presumably to avoid the attention of Romulan spies. In the last issue a notice on "Editorial Policy" headed off potential criticism by declaring that "we will edit articles over questions of spelling, grammar, factual errors, length and just for general improvements". Obviously Data is being a bit fast and loose with the truth here. I'm sure he knows that questions of spelling, grammar, and factual error don't come into it when we're talking about contractions, which are perfectly correct on all counts. As for length, it's hard to see how they offend in that regard, unless you mean that the articles in question aren't long enough. And as for "general improvements": well, Data, need I remind you of your own verdict on this matter? In "The Offspring" (broadcast on WIN on March 9th), you declared that the android you invented, your "child", Lal, was an improvement on yourself because she was able to use contractions, which you saw as a sign of being more human. (Personally, I'd have been more convinced if she'd gone out and defoliated a few continents.)

I need hardly remind the Woroni editors what dangers lie in their policy of allowing Data such a strong editorial hand. Fine fellow though he is, Data suffers the typical android trait of a complete lack of emotion, and through a consequent lack of understanding is likely to make deep and ferocious cuts to the vital, warm, affectionate, loving and lovable articles which we all know are such a feature of Woroni. I notice that page 14 of the last issue ("General Meeting of the ANU Students' Association: Agenda") has already suffered in this way. I beg you to reconsider your policy on contractions, and beam Data back to the Enterprise before further damage is done.

Live long and prosper,

Rory "Grammatical Pedant" Ewins


1993

First published in Woroni, March 1993.
This page: 25 March 2000; last modified 15 November 2001.

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©1993, 2000 Rory Ewins

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