#FridayFlash: "Verbosity's Vengeance"

"Verbosity's Vengeance"

by Tony Noland

"You'll never get away with this, Verbosity!" the Grammarian cried, fighting for breath as his bonds grew ever tighter. Pinned to the floor under the weight and complexity of words, he feared that this was the end.

Professor Verbosity laughed. "Ah, my dear Grammarian," he replied, "as you can see, I have already won, insofar as the first and most crucial step in winning is to render you utterly and completely helpless, a step which, even to a mean and narrow-minded perspective such as yours, must be as readily apparent as the cold concrete upon which you find yourself struggling, indeed, struggling mightily, but," he continued, "to no avail, for, as you know all too well, words have power, and this sentence, though perfectly long and complex enough to entangle you for the next eleven months while you try to parse out subject and object amid all of the subtending and supporting prepositional and participial phrases, is also perfectly correct grammatically, which renders you powerless to break free!" The Professor laughed again, a childishly high laugh of delight and glee.

The Grammarian struggled, hopelessly tangled in the thick ropes of words, trying desperately to find some flaw, some grammatical mistake that he could exploit. With all of his super-powered lexicographical might, he scanned and re-scanned the sentence, though it was blindingly painful to do so. If only there were an an inconsistent tense, a dangling or misplaced modifier, even an intransitive verb used in a transitive sense, but there was nothing! The sentence was grammatically correct in every way!

"Curse you, Verbosity! The people of this city will not stand for your circumlocutions!"

"Now, now, my valiant adversary, or rather, you defeated and broken man who once was a worthy adversary to my rhetorical skill and encephalitic eloquence... you mustn't try to -"

"AHA! An ellipsis! If only I can grab it in time!"

"- struggle so, for as you can see, my confounding concordances of verbal envelopment are employed without flaw, a condition which encompasses the little ellipsis you spotted, as well as the en dash you forced me to use - entirely against my will, but without consequence to the strength of the bonds holding you - as well as the em dashes I just threw in, purely as a lark, not in the sense of a bird preparing to take flight, which would be completely inappropriate in this context, given your utterly earthbound condition, but in the sense of a jest, a jape, a witticism at your expense, Grammarian, for you are now naught but an object of ridicule and mockery, the highest of the high made the lowest of the low, the mightiest of the mighty made the -"

With a tremendous explosion, the enormous and enormously complex stained glass window burst inward, cutting off the flow of words which was choking the life out of the Grammarian. An armored man, seven feet tall and powerfully muscled, did a graceful back-flip through the rain of glass shards and landed perfectly in front of the super-villain.

Verbosity recoiled. "No, not you, not when I was so close to -"

"Yes, Professor Verbosity, it is me, the Avante Guardian! With my faithful companion," he turned to wave a hand to his left, but there was no one there. "Ah, my faithful... um..." The champion of chic looked up, just in time to see a plump boy in an ill-fitting orange and gray leotard drop down from the window frame, lowering himself by a rope. The boy slipped the last couple of feet, landing on his shoulder.

"Yowza geez!" the boy cried.

The Avante Guardian sighed, then said, "My faithful companion, Idiot Boy! I mean," he said, embarrassed, "Idiom Boy!" The superhero struck a heroic pose. Idiom Boy did the same thing, but in his own, unique way. "We're hear to stop you're evil plans, Professor! Theirs no way to escape! At all!"

"Au contraire, you metal-clad buffoon, there are many ways to escape, the first of which is -"

"Stop wright there, Professor!" Punctuation marks erupted from the hero's silver gauntlets: periods, question marks, semicolons, exclamation marks, even a few interrobangs. They flew like a Pelikan blue-black hurricane into the face of Professor Verbosity, the great splash of punctuation raining down onto the enmeshed and prone form of the Grammarian. The venal viceroy of verbiage stumbled backwards, shouting a short, sharp sentence. The serpentine syntax on the floor began to break apart into discrete phrases and clauses as the terminal punctuation marks found their marks, the resonance echo of a bad piece of authorial wordplay causing verb forms to collapse from gerund to infinitive to simple, prepositions to fold back in on themselves and refer to their own subtending object.

"Yeah," Idiom Boy chimed in, "hold it!" He opened his backpack and took out a complicated contraption made of wires, rods and springs. "Once I diagram that sentence, you'll be trapped good! And by that I mean bad! Trapped bad!" On the floor, the struggling Grammarian choked on a cry of rage. "Badly! I meant badly!"

"No!" screamed the Professor, "You! Can't? Do this; to. Me!" With a final cry of frustration, the thwarted super-villain ran from the room, grabbing hold of a line, a very, very, very, very long line from his escape clause, which was, of course, filled with hot air. Hoist on his own petard, he flew off into the night.

"Ha ha!" laughed the Avante Guardian, "our cutting-edge stylistic weapons were no match for his pendantry!"

The Grammarian mumbled something hot and inaudible as he clawed the remains of a thorny, left-branching sentence from over his face.

"Eh? What was that, old freind?" The armored authorial smiled down at his fellow superhero.

"I said, it's pedantry, not PENdantry! Furthermore, he was no match for you, not the other way around, and for God's sake, is it too much for you to spell 'friend' properly when you speak?!"

"What? Did I mispell it? Ah, well, it doesn't matter. The impordant thing is, you're free!"

The blood rose in the Grammarian's face until he was nearly purple. He hissed his words out through clenched teeth. "It... ALWAYS... matters!"

"I dunno, I kinda like it the way the Guardian said it," added Idiom Boy.

"Yeah," said the armored hero, "if you spell something one way one time, this way another time, people know what your trying to say. I mean, it's the same difference, right?"

The Grammarian screamed with rage and dove for the Avante Guardian's neck, his powerful fingers outstretched.


===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.
Like it? Tweet it!


  1. Ah! An interobang, idiot boy and the same difference all at once?! "Spit pop on my screen" fun Tony. Thanks for the laugh!

  2. LOVE THIS! By far your best piece. "The venal viceroy of verbiage" is the best name EVER.

  3. That is fantastic. Pure fun!

  4. This had me cracking up the whole way through. Especially the ending, with the grammarian strangling the one who saved him.

    At first I was going to point out all the errors in the Stylist's speech, until I realized they were deliberate. They still grated, though.


  5. This is Mary Poppins - practically perfect in every way! This would be an excellent resource to teach students about grammar. WIN.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  6. Oh. My. God. Laughing so hard right now. Professor Verbosity up there reads a little like Ulysses.

    Brilliant stuff, sir. Icy's right, one of your very best.


  7. Thanks for all your comments, everyone! I'm listening to a series of lectures on sentence construction and uses of subtending clauses to increase the depth, breadth or depth AND breadth of narrative flow.


    Needless to say, listening to a professor drone on and on about complex sentences made me think of a professor who drones on and on IN complex sentences.

    I'm glad you got a kick out of it.

  8. Wow, that was fun, better than a rollercaoster! Your characters played their parts well, and gotta love that idiom boy! Thanks for the laugh -- you have no idea how badly I needed one. peace...

  9. First "It's my participle" and now this; obviously you're on a crusade for truth, grammar and the American whey -- I mean, way. :D

  10. *LOVED* this! Ooops... Is the Grammarian going to come get me know? I mean 'now'?

    I read this to Monsterbat, and he loved it. :)

  11. I'm glad you all liked it! This is definitely word-geek humor.

  12. This story should be taught in classrooms all over this country. Hooray for the Grammarian. I liked that he wanted to kill his savior at the end. I loved the "purposeful" errors, too. I new what you where up to write away. ;) Great story, Tony. I hope I get to teach this someday.

  13. Super-power fun. Sort of like a Sesame Street for college kids. I like how Verbosity's statement begins with "'But'" and the "he continued" is superb. Gardean may not be able to spell when he speaks, but it is what gives him so much power... at least when it comes to Verbosity and Grammarian. Nice hot-air escape. Very amusing, Tony.

  14. I love stories with word play! Great job!

  15. He getting messed with all along if that comma in the opening is any clue. This is the deepest I've seen anyone dive into wordplay in a long time, Tony.

  16. This was a lot of fun from start to finish. Good story!

  17. I had to stop reading because I was laughing to hard! Love this Tony..brilliant as always, and just as inventive.

  18. I laughed all the way through. Thanks, Tony!

  19. You're killing me with this. So funny. Did you ever read the Thursday Next series? Lots of fun. Really liked this.

  20. Ah yes,


    Very funny and enjoyable read, was laughing out loud at the end

  21. Absolutely my favourite piece of your work I have read. This is the first time my side have literally ached from laughing while reading. Bravo, Tony, and pass the pain meds!

  22. Hilarious! And perfectly executed, too.

    Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

  23. That was effing hilarious, Tony! Excellent job!

  24. I LOL'd at the line, "Curse you, Verbosity! The people of this city will not stand for your circumlocutions!"

    If Grammar were taught in this way, kids would actually be okay with it. Brilliantly done!


  25. I am dumbstruck (nuff said)

    Tony, this is brilliant.

  26. "The Grammarian struggled, hopelessly tangled in the thick ropes of words..."

    Ah, the power of words that bind us down.

    Nice work.

  27. I'm so glad you all liked this! Folks either really, really like this kind of wordplay, or it just falls flat completely.

    You all have a great sense of humor, because matches mine.


  28. Another winner, Tony... This one had so much verve... You just may have outdone yourself.

  29. This has to be one of the most original and entertaining stories I have read in a very long time!

  30. I wresled with my OCD, wanting to corect you speling.

  31. Utterly brilliant, I just don't know how you did this, really superbly clever and so entertaining for what is usually a dry subject matter. I laughed out loud many many times. A triumph!

  32. Never are you so aware of your own grammar inadequacies than when you read something like this. Call me Idiom Boy! These guys are right - college kids or high school kids would love this in the classroom.. maybe even senior public.

  33. Absolutely brilliant! I just loved this and it made me laugh out loud so much that my OH came to see what was so funny. I'm sending a link to this round to all my word-nerd friends.

  34. Anthony, Brenda, Laura, Alison, Cathy, Kath - Thank you so much! Based on your reactions, and that of everyone else, I'm going to make some serious plans on building on this piece.

    It would be a stubborn and short-sighted man who would ignore so many people who said, "This is your best work ever." And you know me!

  35. Brilliant and funny. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Tony. Keep up the good work!

  36. Lovely Lovely Lovely! I laughed so bloody hard. A bit of a sting in it for me, since I'm an idiot savant writer who doesn't know a participle from my elbow. Brilliant action sequences and characters. I see Rex Harrisson as Prof V. for some reason.

    Just a note: Possibly "The Avant Guardian?"

  37. Woah! Seriously awesome. I had to laugh at the very end. I'd think that you can definitely stretch this one out in a novel or novella. :)

  38. Hilarious! LOL I love this kind of thing!

  39. Thanks, everyone! This was a lot of fun to write, and I'm glad it struck a chord with you!

  40. What else is there to say? It is brilliant, seriously. As someone else said, a bit Jasper Fforde, which I like. Very inventive. I let a superfluous appostrophe loose the other day. Think you might have found it.


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?