English as a butchered language

Friday, February 11, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 6

True story. It happened in front of me.

The defendant, Ms. Martinez, who had recently moved to the United States from Argentina, was charged with failure to yield in connection with a motor vehicle accident.

The chief witness for the prosecution was wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt. He had been asked to remove his John Deere cap before entering the courtroom.

After the prosecutor had elicited the details of the fender bender from this witness, she asked the proverbial last question: “Did Ms. Martinez make any statements to you at the scene?”

Answer, verbatim: “Naw. She couldn’t say nothin’, ‘cause she don’t speak no good English.”

Seasoned readers know that I did a “Who am I?” column some months ago.

The answer to which was Victor Fleming, the director of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz,” two movies I did not mention by name in the column.

Readers had such fun with it that I’ve decided to do it again:

I was born in Jonesboro, Ark. in 1955.

When I was 4, my family moved to Southaven, Miss.

I flirted with the idea of being a pro baseball player while my mom bugged me about reading books and preparing for college.

I matriculated at Northwest Junior College in Senatobia, Miss., moved from there to Delta State in Cleveland, Miss., and wound up getting a degree in accounting from Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. in 1977.

After a stint in the workplace, I enrolled in Ole Miss Law School with the intention of becoming a tax lawyer.

When I finished law school in 1983, my interest had shifted to criminal law and politics.

In fact, I had been elected to the Mississippi legislature in 1982.

I served as a lawmaker from 1983-90 for an annual salary of $8,000 while also practicing law and dreaming of that large case that would someday make me rich.

While practicing law and working in the ledge, I wrote a novel that was published in 1989 by Wynwood Press, a virtually unheard of publishing firm, after 28 others had rejected the manuscript.

A run of 5,000 copies was greeted by an underwhelmed readership.

Nonetheless, I toiled away on my second novel, the story of a law school graduate hired by a group of lawyers who looked like a thriving ethical entity.

The protagonist would painfully learn how deceiving looks can be.

Published in 1991, the second novel did a little better than the first, selling seven million copies and remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for 47 weeks.

In the years following, eight of my novels have been made into movies.

My books have been translated into 29 languages and successfully marketed worldwide.

My favorite author is John le Carre.

I have homes in Charlottesville Va., Chapel Hill, N.C. and Oxford, Miss.

Who am I?

The above is probably much easier than the earlier one.

One of the correct respondents before was the editor of one of the papers in which “I Swear” is printed.

“I Swear,” by the way, is now in five papers and available for publication worldwide.

No reason it can’t be translated into 29 languages.

Contact Don Bona at donbona@dailydata.com.

Meanwhile, if you are an online reader, don’t forget to check out the I Swear Crossword at http://www.fleetingimage.com/wij/xyzzy/10-dr.html.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.