If you worked for the National Security Agency over the last few years and had a question about the Oxford comma, you could turn to “Grammar Geek.”
That’s the old-school advice column in the NSA publication SIDtoday — and now we know what people were asking, thanks to archives from 2012 through 2014 released through a records request Monday.
From this treasure trove of internal communications, we learned about a switch from Gigi to Gabby as the reigning grammar geek (any identifying information about the column editors was redacted, though we did learn that “Gabby” grew up in Pennsylvania and when she joined the column in 2013 she’d been with the NSA for 30 years already) and we get something of an inside look at a secretive government agency.
Gigi once responded rather personally (and in third person) to a question, “You hit a nerve with Gigi on this one. Gigi has only been exposed to Governmentese for nine years and has wondered all nine of them who started this practice. I suspect that this phrase and others like it have wandered into Agency lexicon from our military heritage.”
Once “Gabby” took over, more pop culture references were spotted in the responses.
A bad Frasier pun slipped in during a passionate paragraph about the importance of grammar and clear writing. “[K]nowing the rules of grammar (not grammer—sorry, that’s the guy who played Frasier on TV) will help you to be clear and accurate.”
A quick lesson on the meaning of irony naturally brought up the 1996 song “Ironic.” As Gabby wrote, “…you fans of Alanis Morissette: most of the things she lists in her song Ironic are not ironic; they’re just bummers. (‘Meeting the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.’ Sigh … )”
Gabby got really into Weird Al’s parody song “Word Crimes.” She even posted the song lyrics in their entirety.
“I can’t sign off without sharing this gem! Have you heard “Weird Al” Yankovic’s latest tune? It’s called ‘Word Crimes’ (sung to the tune of Robin Thicke’s hit song, ‘Blurred Lines’), and you can find it easily on the Internet,” she wrote. “In less than four minutes’ time, he manages to squeeze in more advice than I’ve given you in the past year! (Well, he did give some of the same advice.) Check it out when you get a chance!”
Grammar Geek columns were released only through 2014, so we don’t know if Gabby is still sharing the most punny of grammar jokes. We can only hope.