Jeff Gabhart used to write. He was modest. He wouldn’t come out and say, “I’m a writer,” but he had a blog once. Isn’t that proof enough? I remember sitting for hours, listening to him type out his latest masterpiece. He would turn to me and say, “What word should I put here?” and I would answer, unabashedly, “sexellent, of course”, and he would put whatever word he had been thinking of in the first place.
When he wrote, he loved. He loved the world and its people and especially kittens. Often times he would look longingly at the cat dish he had bought for the dorm room and mournfully ask, “Why don’t we have a kitty? When we get a house, we should have a house kitten.” This isn’t about kittens though, however cute they are.
This is about Jeff and his writing. Rather abruptly Jeff gave up on the blog. He even went so far as to delete the blog entirely, leaving him with nothing left to remind him of what he had loved so much. Soon a forum was implemented where he could still “blog”, so to speak, but the focus was on the others who went to his site.
If you were to ask Jeff in those bruised months why he had suddenly changed over, he would look at the floor, mutter “kittens…”, and quickly change the subject to Weezer before the topic could be pursued. Despite my own repeated attempts to get the truth out of him, I was unable to ascertain anything.
Jeff had, however, changed a great deal. He was nervous and shifty and refused to pick up a book, even for class. He locked the door at all times. We pretended that this was because of Wayner, but the truth is that he had grown alarmingly paranoid. My friend was deteriorating from the inside out.
The worst was yet to come. I had left a note for Jeff saying that I was going to be in the library doing some group studying (email checking and chick ogling) if anyone needed me. Suddenly, while I was talking up this fly sweet honey, Jeff came bursting into the library.
“Jeff, what’s wrong?”
“Get out of the library!!” He grabbed me quite roughly, especially for Jeff. He didn’t manage to move me very far, but I gave in and pretended to be yanked out of the library.
“What the hell was that?”
“Don’t… you can’t – the … library, danger … ous…” He was breathing very heavily. He had obviously run there.
“Well, my bag’s inside, so I’ll go get it, and we can discuss this.”
“NO!! I’ll talk. I’ll… talk.”
And he did. It soon came out. The reason Jeff had stopped writing and reading was the same reason he had tried so desperately to get me out of the library. Jeff had had a run in with the Word Mafia, the Illiterati.
The Word Mafia is responsible for making sure that every word gets fair use. They look out for special words with special interests: transfer, intensify, and quadradical for starters. One of most prized words they watch, however, is “yippie”, a version of “yippy” or “yippee”. Yippie is the Don Corleone of the Word Mafia, and Yippie didn’t like what Jeff had to say anymore.
The violation can be read at Jeff’s old blog’s last entry entitled Webspace – Moving. The text, in its entirety, is below.
i’m pretty excited. my webspace is all set up and ready to go and lazydesert.net should resolve to the correct new location within the day. :) yippie! the hosting company is setting up squirrel mail right now. when thats ready i’ll have 10 email accounts to use/give away to my personal friends. if you’d like one, let me know. the next thing to take care of is moving the site. i’ll need to setup movable type and get things moved.. hopefully with timdorr’s help. ;)
Not only did he use the offending word. Not only did he spell it the same exact way. Not only did he lowercase it, but he also exclaimed it. What is the penalty for such a conflagration?
The Word Mafia has long held a tight, iron-like clasp against the literary community. It’s not spoken of loudly but whispered. The Illiterati has broken such gifted spirits as Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Collin Janes. Recent newcomer to the fall of the bard is Lacey Arneson, long time commenter on Awayken.com (this site you’re reading right now.)
It took a long time to get Jeff calmed down. He made it clear that there were certain surefire signs that the Word Mafia is on your tail.
- You notice someone following you who always carried a dictionary
- You wake up to find severed newspaper clippings in your bed
- A brick comes through your window with a note attached that says “Stick to numbers”
- An email threatening to put you into a “comma” keeps being sent to you
- You come back to your room to find everything alphabetized
- The bookmobile follows you around
- Some starts shooting hyphens at you
- And finally they break your legs with textbooks.
With the words off his chest (pun ? or was it ?), he slept much easier that night. I heard no mid-nightmare murmurings of “past participle… not the gerund phrase…”, though they did quite amuse me. I enjoy other people’s pain.
Maybe with the truth out, Jeff can once again restore Lazydesert.net, the blog, to it’s original splendor. Of course, the original splendor needed has some broken links, but that’s easy enough to fix.
Please be responsible, people. This story, too, has an unlikely message. Watch what you write down on paper or the internet. Remember, friends, that talk truly is cheap.