Friday, December 01, 2006

Season of Giving

Dear Indigna,

I recently received a mailing from a hotel, "The Peninsula, Beverley Hills," which began with the following:

"Winston Churchill said, 'We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.'" (Italics in original.) The letter then went on to offer the addressee, in that spirit, "a $100 gift certificate from Saks Fifth Avenue" for those select few who choose to take advantage over either Thanksgiving or Christmas of the "very special rate" of $525/room to $1000/suite.

My question is, could Winston Churchill have credibly made such an egregious grammatical error, by using a comma instead of a semi-colon?

Sergeant Semi-Colon
Mianus, CT

Dear Sgt.,

The comma/semi-colon is probably the most common of grammatical errors, committed by average second-graders, thus indicating the reading level of those who make the mistake in a purported quotation. However, the truly salient questions here are, first, is this Churchill quote accurately cited, and second, does this use of Churchill's quote truly reflect what Churchill meant?

First, I doubt it. Given his education, I am quite positive that his grammar was perfectomundo.

Second, did Churchill really mean to suggest that we "make a life" by giving those who are willing to pay $1000 for the "Superior Suite" a "$100 gift certificate from Saks Fifth Avenue" (as opposed to, say, Wal-Mart)?

Now, if you're paying $1000 for the "Superior Suite," are you really going to shop at Wal-Mart???

So the answer is "Well, DUH! What else could he have meant?"