April 1, 2020. The meeting for the Society for the Advancement of English Grammar (SAEG) was held online this year. One timely topic was the metaphorical status of saying the coronavirus has gone viral.

Professor Jessica Smythe offered the most complicated proposal. The accepted understanding is that the relative clauses are categorized depending on if they are essential or nonessential to the meaning of the sentence.

She suggested the relevant criterion be whether the relative clause is essential for identification of the noun phrase it follows. Dr. Smythe offered the following examples as fitting her rule but not the conventional rule.

John, who was falling, hit the ground.
John, who was lying down, hit the ground.

I drove the car that was beautiful
I drove the car, which was beautiful.

Marvin Laird decried this proposal. "We are here to support and improve the laws of grammar, not tear them down."

Dr. Smythe replied, "But my rule works so much better! We are not here to promulgate careless errors from a distant past."

This led to a heated philosophical discussion of the purpose of grammar, which in turn prompted a debate on the metaphorical status of swear words. (f***ing c*** was voted to be a double mixed metaphor, which reinflamed the discussion of viral virus.)

The discussion eventually returned to the motion at hand when it was pointed out that this rule does not apply when the noun phrase begins with an indefinite article.

A move to dismiss was voted down, 235 to 523. Because the conference had only 244 participants, a second vote was held under more controlled voting condition. It supported the motion to dismiss, 235 to 9.

In other action, the use of a comma in exclamations was banned, and the issue of expressing a dramatic pause was referred back to committee.