Voter wishes, like grammar rules, must fall

By Ned Cantwell: State columnist

A couple of friends who no doubt had crushes on their childhood grammar teachers were carping recently about newspaper writers who split infinitives.

They didn’t mention names, but I could sense their glances darting to me when I wasn’t looking. Feigning disinterest, I was mentally cataloguing all the infinitives I’ve split in the past 30 years. A bunch, and that is just an estimate.

To clearly and precisely express oneself, an infinitive may be the occasional casualty. Most grammar rules, veteran columnists have learned, have little affect on the reader’s ability to comprehend the message.

Nonetheless, it is daunting to know there are readers out there who see me simply as a guy who they want to pounce on. I mean, on whom they want to pounce.

Sherm Cockrell, for instance. Sherm is brutal. In a recent column I wrote this very clear sentence: “He says that since New Mexico is only one of two states that allow cockfighting, that should be featured on the coin.”

Sherm, who lives in Prince George, Va., but describes himself as a “New Mexican by birth and disposition,” responds: “Hey, Dude, … Are you absolutely certain New Mexico isn’t both of the two states that allow cockfighting? Or is New Mexico one of only two states that allow cockfighting?”

OK, Sherm, you got me. To adequately describe my embarrassment, let me tell you I am both humbled and chastened. Or maybe I am only one of those two things.

But, listen up, New Mexico, there is a crisis on the horizon and it has nothing to do with my mangling the English language. It is this: New Mexico may soon be one of only one state that allows cockfighting. As it now stands, only two of two states permit the brutal activity: Louisiana and us. Or, we and Louisiana, take your choice.

Now, however, according to an Associated Press report, Louisiana is considering outlawing the practice and locking up people who stage the fights. People convicted of cockfighting would face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Chances of this bill making it out of the Louisiana Senate may be slim. As is true with New Mexico, the Katrina State has been down this road before. What happens is a legislator with some sense introduces a bill to outlaw cockfighting, gets good press and seemingly strong support from his peers. Then, as the session drags on, the legislative effort wilts before the onslaught of the cockfighting lobby.

While we wish Louisiana luck in it latest ban effort, it must be noted there has been some solace in New Mexico not being known as the dumbest state in the nation, but one of two dumb states. Should Louisiana defect, we get the title all to ourselves.

Cockfighting, of course, is the relaxing Sunday family spectator sport through which birds are drugged and outfitted with razor blade-like weapons so they can go into the pit and claw one another to shreds. Fun, fun, fun!

New Mexico lawmakers continue to protect cockfighters even though a poll conducted in 2004 for the Albuquerque Journal found that two-thirds of the registered voters surveyed said they would support a statewide ban.

So be it. Voter wishes, much like picky, picky grammar rules, are to be ignored. As for me, I’m going to grab my ax and attack that huge stack of infinitives piled up over there on the North Forty.

Ned Cantwell welcomes reader input when he is not too busy dangling his participles. Contact him at: