In 1958, the U.S. Air Force bombed South Carolina. Surprisingly, the bombing of Mars Bluff, a rural area near Florence, was not intentional. The bomb was a nuclear weapon carried by a B-47 Stratojet en route from Savannah, Georgia, to the United Kingdom. (The Air Force was not planning to bomb the Brits; the plane was on its way to military exercises and was required to carry nuclear weapons in the event of a sudden Dr. Strangelovian incident with the Soviet Union.) A fault light in the cockpit indicated that the bomb harness locking pin for the transatlantic flight did not engage, and the navigator was summoned to the bomb bay to investigate. As he reached around the bomb to pull himself up, he mistakenly grabbed the emergency release pin. The bomb dropped to the floor of the B-47, its weight forcing the bomb bay doors open and sending the bomb 15,000 feet down to unsuspecting Mars Bluff. Oops.
Because the removable core of fissionable uranium and plutonium was stored separately on board the plane, the bomb was not actually atomic, but it did contain 7,600 pounds of explosives. And it created a pretty good mushroom cloud over Mars Bluff, leaving a 75-foot wide and 35-foot deep crater where Walter Gregg’s home and vegetable garden had been. The only real casualties were several chickens who bought the farm so to speak.
The crater is still preserved but grown over, pretty much just a big hole. Steven Smith, who chaired a 50th anniversary event a few years ago, couldn’t understand why it never became a real tourist attraction. “It sure could be,” he said. “This is a national treasure!”
Take This Verb and Parse It
Diagramming sentences – what fond memories that brings back. Shuffling nouns and verbs and predicate adjectives around until they find their proper position on the diagram. Those were the days, my friend. However, it’s with some sorrow that I contemplate our dear parts of speech. One of their number has fallen upon some hard times.
Pity the poor adverb. Modern writing mavens pretty much eschew the adverb today – plucking it from the garden of good writing (or the garden of bad metaphors, if you prefer) as though it were an insignificant weed. Okay, maybe it’s sometimes overused, but in moderation, like alcohol, caffeine and fat, it serves a noble purpose.
It wasn’t always considered a sin to associate with an adverb. Some important folks have — as I will demonstrate. Going way back to cite an example from a good book (or as many prefer The Good Book) “Verily, I say unto you . . .” Okay, all together now, what part of speech is that word verily? You got it. And it’s used more than once by you know who. Okay, who wants to go first? Just step right up and say “Lose that adverb.” I’d say that’s inviting a smiting.
Thomas Mann: Hold fast to time! Use it! Be conscious of each day, each hour! They slip away unnoticed all too easily and swiftly.
E. B. White: Be obscure clearly.
Mark Twain: The intellect is stunned by the shock but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words.
Or you may remember that catchy tune by Francis Scott Key with words that go something like this: Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? Call the adverb police.
And finally, moving into the future, I quote just three words from one Captain Kirk: “to boldly go.” Now there’s a strong, sassy adverb coming to the rescue of a puny little verb and splitting an infinitive just for good measure.