Hi! My name is Anna, "You'd really like me if you got to know me. I've known me for years and I love me."
A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.
"Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"Well, I'm a panda," he says. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."
*If you didn't get the joke, maybe you shouldn't proceed. Just saying*
**If you did understand it and didn't like it, I probably don't want to know you. And that's kind of heart-breaking. Just saying too.**
Yes, it's a book about punctuation that had me laughing out loud on buses and university corridors. Have you ever tried to explain to someone that you've just read an amazing passage about a semicolon, and that's the source of your untamed joy? Well, I did. They tend to give you a funny look and then slowly move away. Wanna try it? Now is your chance! Grab this book! Get your own fair share of looks, raging from funny to suspicious to outright shock and disgust (*nervous laughter* no, really, what are you reading? ... Oh, it wasn't a joke. It's really a book about punctuation marks... Oooookeeey... I think I have to go now. Gotham needs me.)
I'm pretty sure the author is slightly insane, but don't worry, it's the best kind of crazy. You now the one - really wired and quirky.
"In this chapter I want to examine punctuation as an art. Naturally, therefore, this is where the colon and semicolon waltz in together, to a big cheer from all the writers in the audience. Just look at those glamorous punctuation marks twirling in the lights from the glitter-ball: are they not beautiful? Are they not graceful? Ask professional writers about punctuation and they will not start striking the board about the misuse of the apostrophe; instead they will jabber in a rather breathless manner about the fate of the semicolon. Is it endangered? Save the semicolon! ..."
See what I mean? You will not convince me that's normal. I want to smoke the same stuff she does. Seriously.
The amount of anecdotes about punctuation marks and their rampant personification make it an amazing, captivating read. You'll finish it like a cheesecake.
"The present Apostropher Royal, Sir D'Anville O'M'Darlin', concerns himself these days with such urgent issues as the tendency of "trendy publishers" to replace quotation marks with colons and dashes, the effect of which is that pairs of unwanted inverted commas can be illegally shipped abroad, split down the middle to form low-grade apostrophes and sold back to an unwary British public."
"...there are no laws against imprisoning apostrophes and making them look daft. Cruelty to puctuation is quite unlegislated: you can get away with pulling the legs off semicolons; shrivelling question marks on the garden path under a powerful magnifying glass; you name it."
"In fact one might dare to say that while the full stop is the lumpen male of the punctuation world (do one job at a time; do it well; forget about it instantly), the apostrophe is the frantically multi-tasking female, dotting hither and yon, and succumbing to burnout from all the thankless effort."
Exhibit d (sorry, I can't help myself ... -Somebody, stop her! She's in a quoting frenzy!- *runs*):
"No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, "Good food at it's best", you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave."
*pants* -Relax. I've got this. Now pass me a straight-jacked.- *a scream of agony* -She bit me. Catch her! It's trying to get away! -
*ehm ehm* Uff. Where was I? Oh, right.
This book introduces history of writing and punctuation in an interesting and relevant way:
"So what happened to the comma in this process? Well, between the 16th century and the present day, it became a kind of scary grammatical sheepdog. As we shall shortly see, the comma has so many jobs as a "separator" [...] that it tears about on the hillside of language, endlessly organising words into sensible groups and making them stay put: sorting and dividing; herding and of course darting off with a peremptory "woof" to round up any wayward subordinate clause that makes a futile bolt for semantic freedom. Commas, if you don't whistle at them to calm down, are unstoppably enthusiastic at this job"
And if that wasn't enough to convince you of the awe inspiring powers of this book, just read what the author has to say about people that care. Yes, they care about all those strange dots and thingies. *aww*
*hears footsteps* *hides under the table*
About people that care about the punctuation:
"We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation."
"...an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler."
"For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word "Book's" with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker."
"There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and people who don't, and I'll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken."
"To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as "Thank God its Friday" rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence"
".. and when words such as "phenomena", media" or "cherubim" are treated as singular ("The media says it was quite a phenomena looking at those cherubims"), some of us cannot suppress actual screams."
The author also voices some concerns about the future: "How long will it be before a mainstream publisher allows an illiterate title into print?" I'd say we're getting there. "Meanwhile, the full stop is surely the simplest mark to understand - so long as everyone continues to have some idea what a sentence is, which is a condition that can't be guaranteed. " I'm sad to report I know some people that have no idea what constitutes a sentence. Real, living, breathing (I checked) people. How can they live with themselves?! The shame! The shame!
*commotion on a corridor*
-Did you find her? Keep looking!-
This book is very funny, which is crucial when talking about things that have a potential to prompt a reader to scratch out their eyes out of boredom. It's not a set of instructions or rules. It's a very conversational, light and funny mix of history, rules, anecdotes, comparisons between British and American English, jokes, metaphors and just general insanely interesting hilarity. I'd recommend it to anyone (even if they'll look at me funny when I try to explain how much they need this book in their lives).
Now I'd like you to understand how confusing English punctuation can be for foreigners. You see, I don't have any problems with commas and periods in my native language (Polish). All rules are simple there. Polish punctuation was never a problem for me.
*WARNING - lots of potential punctuation mistakes ahead! As I've said - it's confusing as fuck.*
But English? This language is different. None of my comfortable, well known, everyday rules apply. Punctuation is a crucial element of the English language. It has a power to change a meaning of a sentence with one, swift coma.
In Polish there are so many word endings and little words added in between, that even if you took out all the periods, comas, semicolons and question marks, the message would remain clear, because (in polish there's always a coma before 'because') it's words that carry the meaning, not the punctuation (it helps you pace the reading and put emphasis on words, but does not play a crucial role in conveying the message)
A woman without her man is nothing. (Without punctuation this sentence could mean anything).
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
A woman without her man, is nothing.
In Polish that's not an issues since:
A woman: without her, man is nothing. (Kobieta - bez niej mężczyzna jest niczym *That dash looks nice, but if I took it out all Polish people would still understand the sentence. No confusion.)
A woman without her man, is nothing. (Kobieta bez mężczyzny jest niczym)
Punctuation or not, no way to confuse the two. Look at the commas. Just look at them! See? They're not there! Why? Because they don't fucking matter! They're not needed! And everyone is surprised when foreigners have problems...
For me English punctuation is a huge issue. Yes, I do know the difference between dogs, dog's, and dogs', but have you ever tried to explain to a group of Polish kids what's the deal with it? Those words sound the same, so why put that little mark there?
(In polish it would be "psy", "psa", and "psów" - no room for misunderstanding. You see, we don't use " ' " . At all. Ever. Explain that to a room of 10-year-olds.)
But commas are a real bitch. Far too often I look at the sentence and know something is wrong with punctuation (or articles... that shit is bizarre), but have no fucking idea what. I just don't. So I live it alone. Nobody though me (until recently) about it. Teachers glide right over the issue without explaining to students that "commas save lives".
Let's eat grandma. (Zjedzmy babcię)
Let's eat, grandma. (Zjedzmy babciu)
Yes, in Polish commas are useful, but dropping them isn't as perilous as it is in English. AND NO ONE TOLD ME! Years of reading helped me 'feel' the meaning, but no one ever came up to me and said 'look, this is how it works'.
If coma is a bitch, semicolon is an exotic animal. It does exist, I know it does. I've even seen it once or twice, but in Polish it's not commonly used . So imagine my exasperation when teacher told me there are words that require the use of this strange cross-breeding of colons with periods. It's equivalent of someone telling me to be totally cool with koalas and kangaroos; animals that for me are certainly not commonly encountered.
*Screams* -there she is!-
Ok. I'm done for now. I could rant about it all day/night long, but I have mercy. Well, actually I don't, but I'm making sausages and intestines won't feel themselves up with meat so... Gotham needs me.
*hums* they're going to take me away, ha ha, hi hi, ho ho... *crawls away*