Sunday, March 11, 2012

When being right isn't enough

Have you ever had someone yell at you for doing something wrong, when in fact that person was the one in the wrong? Is there anything more maddening?

For example: Years ago, my husband was driving down the street he lived on -- which was a one-way street -- when he encountered a car coming toward him. As he did his best to move to the side of the road to let the wrong-way driver past, the driver opened his window and yelled angrily, "It's a one-way street, buddy!"

Argh! This makes me crazy, and I wasn't even there.

A much calmer, though no less maddening, instance occurred the other day at a coffee shop where my husband went to do some writing. He asked the barista for the password to the wi-fi account and was told it was "hamster."

When he entered the password, he could see that he needed eight letters instead of seven. He approached the barista again with this information and was told: "It is eight letters: h-a-m-p-s-t-e-r. People always forget the 'p.'" This was served with a dollop of smugness.

My husband walked away thinking, "Oh, yeah, the 'p' ... wait -- THERE'S NO 'P' IN HAMSTER!"

But what are you gonna do?

My "favorite" example of this actually happened to me (indirectly). I was working part-time as the copy editor in a communications department of a large corporation but was absent the day a C-level executive (apparently with nothing better to do to justify his six-figure salary) came rampaging through the department, shaking a news release over his head and bellowing that we had been "sending out grammatically incorrect communications."

Why? Because we had been putting one space, rather than two, after a period. Seriously. Never mind that this has nothing to do with grammar -- or even punctuation. It has to do with updated technology and the fact that a computer's not a typewriter, so typewriter rules don't apply in this day and age.

But, again, what are you gonna do? This was someone who was not going to admit he was wrong. I'm just glad I wasn't the one who had to stand up to him (although to the credit of whoever did, we continued with our one-space policy).

This topic is only loosely related to typical Copy Curmudgeon material, but I think we need a name for this phenomenon. Co-wrong-tion (instead of correction)? Wrongteousness? Meh. Please submit your neologisms below, as well as your ideas for how to overcome the madness, rather than silently fuming for the rest of our lives ...

P.S. Don't even think about yelling at me for my "incorrect" use of whoever above. It is not incorrect.