06 February 2024

A Farewell Song

     As I mentioned in my last blog, the end of January marked the last day of my service as a magistrate judge. When I cleared out my desk, I found a smattering of paper scraps. On these, I had jotted down the typos and misheards from police reports that I'd been asked to review. Sadly, this is likely the last of these blogs. I've been cut off from the taproot. 

    As always, I hope these tiny written missteps brighten your day. Also, as you think about crafting characters, I hope they remind you that police officers, like everyone else, sometimes make inconsequential mistakes. Police errors are not always substantial, case-turning blunders of constitutional proportions. They're not necessarily mean-spirited or corrupt. Sometimes, they're just typos. 

    I found the defendant engaging in a fistic encounter. 

Creative Commons
    To be fair to the officer, "fistic" is a word. He wasn't wrong in his usage. The arrestee was hitting another person. The OED states that "fistic" is an adjective "related to boxing." The OED also reports, however, that its high water mark for usage was approximately 1900. Clearly, the officer channeled his inner Damon Runyon or Grantland Rice. Or, he may have reached for grandiose prose when a more common phrase would have worked better. 

    And now, another typic encounter. 


    At home, my husband's girlfriend pointed a gun at me.

    Again, not a typo. Remember this sentence the next time you're challenged to tell a story in ten words or less. Plot, setting, conflict, and theme all set out in a single line. I'll let the rest of the story unfold in your mind. 

    I arrived at the scene and exited my vehicle. The defendant then attempted to flea from the police. 

    Although it is always possible that the officer encountered a character ripped from the script of an upcoming Marvel movie or, for those with a literary bent, a John Dunne poem, this one is likely a typo. I do, however, really like the imagery that jumps to mind. 

    On January 15th, while I was performing my duties as a Texas Peach Officer...

    Fresh, quality produce is important to us in this state. Our Agricultural Department works hard to keep it safe from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope you'll raise your glass to those hard-working men and women the next time you're having a bellini. 

    This officer, however, was not employed by the Ag. Department. She was one of our rank-and-file peace officers who called in a report before getting back out on the streets. Voice-to-text heard something different than intended. 

    I prepared a search warrant affidavit and presented it to the Honorable Judge [X]. After reviewing the warrant, he singed it. 

    I know that on your bucket list of Broadway shows, slightly behind Hamilton, Wicked, and Hadestown, you've got Search Warrant: The Musical. Once you see it, you'll come away humming the tune to "Probable Cause" and that slightly bawdy earworm, "Cavity Search." 

    Incidentally related, perhaps: 

    While frisking the lung area, I found a firearm. 

    The "lunge area" is the space in a motor vehicle immediately surrounding the driver or passenger. It is the zone from which a suspect might quickly grab a firearm or weapon. Clearing the lunge area is an integral part of officer safety. 

    Searching the lung area for a firearm, however, probably required a great deal of singing before the judge granted the legal authority to go that deeply into the body. 

    And with that, my scrap pile has been emptied. 

Creative Commons

    In conclusion, I will note that it is not just officers who occasionally risk misinterpretation. A word of caution: When you're writing thank-you notes to well-wishers on the occasion of your retirement, be careful with your cursive. If you are a tad sloppy with your handwriting, the sentence: 

    "It has been an honor to work with you."

Might easily look like the sentence, 

    It has been an horror to work with you." 

And that changes the meaning of the sentiment entirely. Trust me on this one. 

Until next time. 


  1. Congrats on retiring, Mark. I wish you many years of blogging and writing fiction. Oh, and when the judge singed the warrant, I thought he burned it slightly.

  2. Congratulations, Mark. Welcome to retirement. We’re gonna miss those typos. When I was an editor I received some beauts. Sadly, I never thought to jot them down. When I was a social worker I encountered misuses that would have been funny, if not for the unfortunate circumstances, such as the man who had one of his tentacles removed.
    Edward Lodi

  3. Congratulations on retiring, Mark - you will find much more of the same in the world around you. BTW, the "At home, my husband's girlfriend pointed a gun at me" reminds me of a story I heard at an AA Round-Up where the sponsor got a call from his sponsee who was in a panic because he came home and found his wife, his girlfriend, and his boyfriend ALL THERE at the same time. They'd all met at the laundromat...

    1. Do you want what's behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3?

  4. >… frisking the lung area…

    That’s a deep cavity search to be sure.

    I can’t recall if I mentioned this before. Your list reminds me of a Code Enforcement hearing where ‘officers’ often revert to inflated verbiage. This is an actual quote referring to cracked floor tile:

    “I abated the property ’cause the floor declensions suffered severe crackage due to repeat hammeration.”

    We’re going to miss your cache of malapropisms, Mark!

  5. Yes, there will be no more. I've abated the magisteration of felonious incarceratons.


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