I was reading an old comic strip the other day, Doonesbury to be specific, when I noticed it. In the strip Boopsie is at Graceland, standing before Elvis Presley’s grave. She is quite humbled by the experience, and reverently reads the inscription on the tombstone. Boopsie apparently glossed over one of the lines, but it definitely caught my eye. It says, “He became a living legend in his own time.”
I know, I know. With the current state of the world, with droughts presaging the coming water wars and a nasty and ever-spreading pestilence nibbling its way to our shores, why am I so concerned with such picayune details as a few poorly written words on the tomb of a long-dead singer? Aren’t there more perilous and urgent things for me to worry about?
And yes, of course there are. And so I now confess to you what must already be obvious to even the most casual reader; that I am a quibbler, a pettifogger and a top-drawer picker of nits. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of you this very day wrote to me and said, Leonard, your the biggest fusspot I have ever seen! To which, of course, I’d hastily reply, It should be ‘you’re,’ not ‘your.’
Or perhaps, God help you, you’re much like me. Perhaps the line on old Elvis’s gravestone bothers you, too, because you know that while someone can be a living legend, or a legend in his own time, to say that someone was “a living legend in his own time,” is grammatically incorrect.
Or, at the very least, it’s horribly redundant. The only time, in fact, that a person can be a living legend is in his own time. Once he’s not living, then he’s no longer in his own time, right? And so, although I don’t have very high hopes for this, I think the inscription should be changed. Think of all the impressionable school children who visit Graceland each year.
And don’t even get me started on the correct spelling of the poor guy’s middle name.