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In Brazil, With A Syntax Question? Telephone Operators Are Standing By

Vieira Souto Avenue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Antonio Scorza/AFP hide caption

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Antonio Scorza/AFP

In many U.S. cities, if you have a question about, say, parking permits or air quality or health department violations, you can dial 3-1-1.

When I lived in New York City, I marveled at how efficiently the system put me in touch with someone who knew how to answer the most esoteric question.

This morning, I stumbled on an Associated Press story about another ingenious telephone service:

Fumbling for the right word? Stumped by syntax? Trying to figure out just what syntax means? Help is just a phone call away — at least if you live in Rio de Janeiro.

The Brazilian state's government has created a grammar telephone hot line.

According to the wire service, eight language professors will man the phones on weekdays, answering "questions about topics such as spelling, accents and agreement of verbs in Portuguese."