Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - #18


13 Great Quotes and Examples from "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" By Lynne Truss

Please be aware that this does not mean you will find perfect grammar on all posts here at this blog. Only that I find this book hilarious, and have my own little grammar pet peeves, like most English majors.

1. It's tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the mornings. True, one occasionally hears a marvellous punctuation-fan joke about a panda who "eats, shoots & leaves," but in general the stickler's exquisite sensibilities are assaulted from all sides, causing feelings of panic and isolation.

2. Everywhere one looks, there are signs of ignorance and indifference. What about that film Two Weeks Notice? Guaranteed to give sticklers a very nasty turn, that was - its poster slung along the sides of buses in letters four feet tall, with no apostrophe in sight.

3. I just remember a period when, convinced that an apostrophe was definitely required somewhere, I would cunningly suspend a very small one immediately above the "s", to cover all eventualities.

4. While other girls were out with their boyfriends on Sunday afternoons...I was at home with the wireless listening to an Ian Messiter quiz called, Many a Slip, in which erudite and amusing contestants spotted grammatical errors in pieces of prose.

5. (Talking about the lack of grammatical training in decades past) It is arguable that the timing of their grammatical apathy could not have been worse. In the 1970's, no educationist would have predicted the explosion in universal written communication caused by the personal computer, the Internet and the key-pad of the mobile phone.

6. (cont)But now, look what's happened: everyone's a writer! Everyone is posting film reviews on Amazon that go like this:
"I watched this film a few days ago expecting the usual hugh Grant bumbling...character Ive come to loathe/expect over the years. I was thoroughly surprised. This film was great, on of the best films i have seen in a long time. The film focuses around one man who starts going to a single parents meeting, to meet women, one problem He doesnt have a child"

7. (cont) Isn't this sad? People who have been taught nothing about their own language are (contrary to educational expectations) spending all their leisure hours attempting to string sentences together for the edification of others. And there is no editing on the Internet!

8. To those who care about punctuation, a sentence such as "Thank God its Friday" (without the apostrophe) rouses feelings not only of despair but of violence. The confusion of the possessive "its" (no apostrophe) with the contractive it's (with apostrophe) is an unequivocal signal of illiteracy and sets off a simple Pavlovian "kill" response in the average stickler.

9. Readers grow so accustomed to the dwindling incidence of commas in public places that when signs go up saying "no dogs please", only one person in a thousand bothers to point out that actually, as a statement, "no dogs please" is an indefensible generalisation, since many dogs do please, as a matter of fact; they rather make a point of it.

10. Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop, the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming you have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three dots...you stop.

11. Of the objections to the colon and semicolon listed above, there is only one I am prepared to concede: that semicolons are dangerously habit-forming. Many writers hooked on semicolons become an embarrassment to their families and friends. Their agents gently remind them, "George Orwell managed without, you know. And look what happened to Marcel Proust: carry on like this and you're only one step away from a cork-lined room!" But the writers rock back and forth on their office chairs, softly tapping the semicolon key and emitting low whimpers.

12. Inverted commas (or speech marks, or quotes) are sometimes used by fastidious writers as a kind of linguistic rubber glove, distancing them from vulgar words or cliches they are too refined to use in the normal way.

13. Overtly disorganised thought is the mode of most email and (mobile phone) text communication, and the dash does an annoyingly good job in these contexts standing in for all other punctuation marks. "I saw Jim - he looked gr8 - have you seen him - what time is the thing 2morrow - C U there."

Check here for more Thursday Thirteen.

15 comments:

Janet said...

#6 made me cringe :-)
#9 made me laugh (look, I'm about to use a semicolon!); my dogs certainly please me!

Mercy's Maid said...

I love that book! I have another of her books (Talk to the Hand) and I haven't read it yet, but have high expectations.

I did bookish quotes this week too.

SUNNYBROOK said...

Oh my goodness! I simply have to read that book!

Rosemarie said...

This writer is amazingly witty and intelligent. If we could all live up to those standards.

Voice on Miscellaneous Matters

JAM said...

That looks like a fun read. The only problem I have with stuff like that is that language and usages change so much within a person's lifetime that it's hard to be a grammar snob. Word pronunciations change, meanings change, etc.

I think most folks do the best they can, but I don't get serious about it unless I'm proof reading a paper for my girls.

I personally think that instant/text messaging will kill what little sense of grammar and spelling the coming generations might have had. It will be hard on them when they have to type a letter for work and their profound ignorance of the language and punctuation necessary for that stops them in their tracks.

Rosemarie said...

Come visit my Christian blog when you can.

Pearls of wisdom...a heavenly voice.
http://avoicetobeheard.blogspot.com/

FindingYourPath said...

Okay... Now I'm intimidated :)

Your Brother in the Word Mitch

SusieJ said...

I had forgotten this book. It is a treasure. Thanks for reminding me.

Toni said...

I'll have to check it out!

Special K Family

Tendrils said...

I too LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!! :)
Thanks for sharing!

Starrlight said...

Great list =)

crissybug said...

What a great list. It is funny that a whole book can be written on punctuation.

BTW, I tagged you for a meme. You can check out the details over at my blog.

Qtpies7 said...

I really want to get that book! The kids version looks hysterical!

scribbit said...

I heard an interview with the author on NPR when the book came out and was hooked from the beginning. I love humor. I love grammar. Perfect!

Lilibeth said...

It WAS a funny book; however, one must endure the lifted eyebrows and frozen smiles of those who fail to understand why one is laughing at a grammar book if one dares to read it on a bus full of people who want to visit about redecorating living rooms and attending basketball games--as one found out.