Conan The Grammarian

I am mighty semantic warrior! I crush opponents beneath dangling participle, and revel in the weeping of their indirect clauses!

Not really.

But it is nice to see my English lessons coming in handy, with a practical application at last* -- nowadays, my nuanced understanding of sentence construction doesn't apply too often to what I do, since none of what I write is going in a textbook or newspaper.

I have finally discovered what advanced literacy *is* good for: flagging spam. About a half-dozen times a day, I get a familiar chime in my Inbox, notifying me of a new email. I get all excited, of course, as anyone would, but then discover that it's *not* a fancy friend, regaling me with tales of his or her latest grand adventures, but instead some dirty spammer trying to sucker me into the latest scam.

My friends (and web-hosts) Josh and Brianna tell me that it's mainly the Russians who are to blame, and that they're tirelessly fighting these Eurasian invaders on my behalf. A few still manage to weasel through, though... sneaky Russians.

The only reason I'm wise to their Siberian schemes (I'm breaking out all the Russian stereotypes I can think of; no offense intended) is that I have a slightly better mastery of this language than they do. A message like,

"Your Online Banking is Blocked"

would *ordinarily* be cause for concern, until you read further to see the explanation the sender provides: "Because of unusual number of invalid login attempts on you account, we had to believe that, their might be some security problem on you account."

Then you start to realize that either you've just received a half-witted scam to get you to click the enclosed link and foolishly provide your social security number and financial records, or everyone at your bank flunked out of sixth grade English.

The Russians (let's all just assume they're Russians) then *further* incriminate themselves with the supplementary quasi-reassurance: "Please click on sign in to Online Banking to continue to the verification process and ensure your account security. It is all about your security. Thank you".

Well, Russians, why didn't you say so? If it's all about my security, and not some insidious Cossack plot (what *is* a Cossack, anyway?), then I feel *much* better. I just find it *extra* comforting, like being swaddled in asterisks almost, when I then receive the following, nearly identical email, minutes later, from a whole different alleged sender.

From: capitalone@online.com
Subject: Confirm Your Capital One Account !

Action required

As part of measures of ensuring a safer and more secure Banking environment. We have re-structured our Banking servers .

We have decided to put an extra verification process to ensure your identity and account information is protected.

Please click on continue, to the verification process and ensure your Account information is entered correctly to get verified.

It is all about your security.

Capital One will never ask for your PIN .


Now, here I'm extremely grateful that I know enough to know something's fishy. I might not have been tipped off (though I should have been) by the fact that the email is sent from an online.com domain name, which I've never even heard of, or that it's addressed to "undisclosed recipients."

But when they start distributing commas seemingly at random (Russian syntax must be a whole other animal) and repeating the words "verification" and "security" like mesmerizing mantras, my Conan the Grammarian skills spring into action. And yours should too.

Make no mistake: your Norton antivirus and your triple-lockdown firewalls will protect you somewhat, but eventually it's gonna come down to the final encounter -- just you and the Russians. And when that day comes, when you must decide how to proceed, whether to follow b.s. instructions or immediately press Delete, what do you think you'll you be armed with, my aspiring warrior friend?

I'll tell you, buddy: Grammar. And common sense.

* Not that everything you learn has to have a "practical" application. I've lately become deeply offended by this notion, and feel that enlightenment for its own sake (not to mention becoming a more dimensional and interesting person) is pretty friggin' practical, thank you very much.

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