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Business Before Grammar
by [?]

We have just been perusing a copy of a certain magazine which proclaims on its cover that it has doubled its circulation in twenty months. Within, the editor sets forth what he believes to be the reasons for this gratifying growth. “The magazine accepts man as he is–and helps him,” says the editor. “The magazine is edited to answer the questions that keep rising and rising in the average man’s head. It is not edited with the idea of trying to force into the average man’s head a lot of information which he does not hanker for and cannot make use of.”

Having always considered ourself an average man, we turned the pages hopefully, only to find a considerable amount of information we had never “hankered” for, and could not make use of, as, for instance, how to become the biggest “buyer” in the universe, or how a certain theatrical manager wants you to think he thinks he got on in the world (there is, to be sure, a quite unintentional psychological interest here), or how to remember the names of a hundred thousand people–dreadful thought! So we decided we were not, after all, an average man, and shifted to the fiction.

There were four short stories and a serial in this issue, and not one of them concerned itself with people who could speak correct English. Some of the stories confined their assaults upon our mother tongue to the dialogue, one was told by a dog (which, of course, excuses much, in prose as well as verse), and one was entirely written in what we presume to be a sort of literary Bowery dialect, which we have since been informed by friends more extensively read than ourself is now the necessary dialect of American magazine humor, as essential, almost, as the bathing-girl on the August cover.

“‘I think we got about everything. I’ll see that the
things is packed in them wardrobe trunks an’ sent to
your hotel to-morrow morning. An’ believe me, it’s
been some afternoon, Mr. Bentley!'”

–This, at random, from one of the two stories which dealt with the “business woman,” whose motto seems to be, “Business Before Grammar,” even as it is the motto of the editor. The other “business woman” was not quite so lax. She tried as hard to speak correctly as the author could let her, and won a certain amount of sympathy for her efforts.

But the gem, of course, was the story told all in the literary Boweryese. A lack of acquaintance with past performances by our author prevented us from feeling quite sure who the supposed narrator might be, without reading the entire story, but we gathered from early paragraphs and from the illustrations that the guy was a pug. (You see, it’s contagious.) At any rate, this is how the story began:–

“The average guy’s opinion of himself reaches its highest level about five minutes after the most wonderful girl in the world gasps ‘Yes!’ He always thought he was a little better than the other voters, but now he knows it! Of course, he figures, the girl couldn’t very well help fallin’ for a handsome brute like him, who’d have more money than Rockefeller if he only knew somethin’ about oil. He kids himself along like that, thinkin’ that it was his curly hair or his clever chatter that turned the trick. Them guys gimme a laugh!

“When Mamie Mahoney or Gladys Van de Vere decides to love, honor and annoy one of these birds, she’s got some little thing in view besides light house-keepin’. Some dames marry for spite, some because they prefer limousines to the subway, and others want to make Joe stop playin’ the races or the rye. But there’s always somethin’ there–just like they have to put alloy in gold to hold it together. Yes, gentle reader, there’s a reason!

“But if you’re engaged, son, don’t let this disturb you. I’ve seen some dames that, believe me, I wouldn’t care what they married me for, as long as they did!”

Having proceeded thus far, we turned back to the table of contents for affirmation of what we vaguely remembered to have read there. Yes, we had read it! The tale was labeled by the editor, “A funny story.”

So this is fiction for “the average man,” and on this spiritual fare his cravings for literature are fed! So this is the sort of thing which doubles the circulation of a popular magazine in twenty months! Such melancholy reflections crossed our mind, coupled with the thought that with no speech at all in the movies, and such speech as this in his magazines, the “average man” will either have to read his Bible every day or soon forget that there was once such a thing as the beautiful English language. And alas, the circulation of the Bible hasn’t doubled in the past twenty months! “This magazine accepts man as he is–and helps him”–so reads the editor’s self-puffery. What an indictment of man–and what an idea of help! We would hate to go to bed with his conscience,–if editors have such old-fashioned impediments.

But suddenly we caught a ray of light amid the encircling gloom. The editor hadn’t stated what his circulation was twenty months ago! We recalled how Irvin Cobb once told us that the attendance at his musical comedy had doubled the previous evening–the usher had brought his sister. Doubtless the new circulation isn’t more than a million,–and what is a mere million nowadays?