the hunting of the snark, interrobang this, and stuff about commas and apostrophes

alright, this piece about the wild world of punctuation marks has tipped me over the edge. i thought i wasn’t going to write this because i had important fashion news to impart yesterday, but THREE THINGS about punctuation marks in two days have sent me over the tipping point and now i have to blog about it all. of course, now i want interrobangs on my keyboard, who wouldn’t? (read it, go back, quickly. at least open it in a tab so you can refer to it, kthx) i would probably use exclamation commas and question commas all the time, and maybe it’s as well i can’t. a sentence has to stop somewhere. as does a paragraph;

“Hedera is Latin for ivy. Why that is relevant here is not very clear at all, but this little glyph was used back in the day to mark paragraph breaks. Seems like it was probably really hard and annoying to draw, but it looks nice.”


so what else is in the news? WATERSTONES nee WATERSTONE’S, the bookshop has abandoned it’s apostrophe! and it’s part of a wider trend, of course. my friend grace, who is an editor said

“Without the apostrophes guiding hand well all be tottering about, bumping into things and not knowing where were at. Fools!”

which a) she would, she’s an editor, and b) made me feel more attached to the apostrophe, i mean, guiding hand, aw. i hadn’t thought of the apostrophe as being helpy. when i was a teacher, and not of english, i might add, i will admit i used to tell students ‘if in doubt leave it out’ because i could see that the apostrophe was going the way of all things, but more importantly, a redundant apostrophe is WAY more glaring than a missed one. recently @mockduck asked TK MAXX why they had ditched their apostrophe in their MENS and WOMENS signage. she got a reply which makes total sense to me – the designer thought it looked cleaner. harsh, but true.

but there’s more. before either of these articles came to my attention, this article about the comma splice gave me pause. this is because if i had ever learned the finer points of comma splicing and how it IS SO WRONG apparently, then i certainly have allowed it to fade into the mists of time, because i use it all the time. and now that i know that a semicolon is the proper thing i’m just going to go right ahead and keep doing it.

it’s not that i don’t get the argument. i do use commas properly as well as improperly, i think i just am not all that fond of semicolons. does that make me demonic? maybe. and it’s not as though i can’t be pedantic. i am very against  anyone playing fast and loose with the oxford comma, for instance. when i was taught it at school, the example given was the phrasing of the act of union, which some scottish pedant RIGHTLY insisted should be listed – i forget the order; england, scotland, and wales – for example, and not; england, scotland and wales. totally different meaning. (look at me using semicolons! i will do, just not for comma splicing, i keep commas handy for that.)

anyway, that’s all the news on the grammar front for now. i think you will agree it is enough to be going on with. and i doubt i will ever write about it again, it’s more @lucysfootball‘s thing than mine. it was fun while it lasted, grammar, but you know i play fast and loose with you and you’ll never be my girl.

pip pip!


23 thoughts on “the hunting of the snark, interrobang this, and stuff about commas and apostrophes

  1. Ironically I notice a stray it’s apostrophe crept into your post [interrobang]! Of course, with iPhones second-guessing everyone’s apostrophe intentions these days, there’s another added layer of complexity.

    I should say that the TK Maxx thing was a couple of years ago. As multiple people pointed out on Twitter, if they were so big on clean, why didn’t they just stick with ‘men’ and ‘women’? Sadly I was too o_0 at the time to put this to them.

  2. Though I still make mistakes with these things, I’m quite fond of decent punctuation. Whether it’s your thing or not, I enjoy reading posts about it.

    I’m all for the apostrophe, as well as decent comma use.

    1. it’s one of those things where i think it’s okay if *i* trash the language, but take a dim view of others doing it.

      classic double standards, i can has them.

      1. I love the way that the internet has encouraged pedants to unite (and share examples of bad grammar), but at the same time drop into “I Can Has Cheeseburger” speak from time to time as a guilty pleasure.

        When my son reads how his dad wasted time online, I hope he appreciates the difference between the “normal typing” and the “ironic typing” that I has done over teh yearz..

        1. if i was better at this stuff in general, i would be able to explain how, in it’s coherence, cheezeburger speak and other slang and ideoms are perfectly grammatical within their own rules.

          but i am not. if i had a degree in linguistics i’d be able to do it. i have read some of that stuff though, and it’s pretty fascinating, but too hard on my brain nowadays, even if i did happen to have an academic library next door i could slip into for a bit of reference. i might could (phrase picked up from ‘the wire’) find it on the interwebs but success in finding academic stuff is still far from assured, which is a shame. although i am not entirely sure i would be good at online research. i used to do a lot of my research in the stacks, finding stuff by luck or intuition.

  3. I am all for bringing obscure punctuation marks into current practice. Grocers have enough trouble with apostrophes; imagine what they could do with a hedera.

    Of the marks in that article, I wish I had the because (and the therefore) dots on my keyboard. I would use them all the time. As often as I use the comma splice (which sounds like an icecream).

    1. ha!

      at least it would give us a bit of variety from “onion’s” (complete with quotation marks, sometimes).

      it would be fun to press them into use. i would use all the exclaimy ones. d’you know, i didn’t even know it was called a comma splice. having a name seems to validate it even further, in my mind.

      1. I like “Onion’s” and in proper greengrocer writing, which my dad can do because he was one, they (whatever they are that belong to said onions) are great. I have days where I punctuate because “it just looked nicer that way,” – not the best thing in my line of work!

        1. ooh, now i feel all sentimental, and want you to get sample signs from your dad. i bet you could sell them on the internet. RUSTIC or something…

          i’m glad my days of actually marking essays and so on are behind me. my spelling is half way across the pond and neck deep in the internet.

  4. I see how you wrote an entire post about grammar and never capped a sentence. Tricky, you.

    I am found of commas. And semicolons in proper use, of course. Oxford commas a bit more on the fence about – it depends very much on the style of writing. They are certainly out for social science and science academic writing, humanities writing – well, in those cases…er. Anyway.

    And ‘ are important. Without them who knows who the hell who owns what?

    1. ::bows::

      i gave up caps for CAPSLOCK.

      a world where who knows who owns what! ANARCHY!

      and, yeah. i don’t think i will be pursuing an academic writing career anytime soon.

  5. I quite frequently use the spirit of the exclamation comma, and would totally us a real one if it was on my keyboard. I just, in fact, used it in my recent FB update about bowling:

    “Well, for those of you waiting breathlessly for results of the bowling tournament, I did GREAT! for me! My current league…”

    Even with the ALLCAPS, “great” needed more. It NEEDED an exclamation point but I do not consider “for me!” a new sentence. But, look:

    “Well, for those of you waiting breathlessly for results of the bowling tournament, I did GREAT, for me!”

    not quite as dramatic, is it? not quite that extra EXCLAIMING that “great” truly deserves in that sentence. I never hesitate to include end puncs in the middle of sentences, although I more frequently put them in their own open and close paren, a la “well, I am having woes (!) today because the…”

    1. (I should add that in my usage, the use of end puncs in parens — as in the woes(!) example above – is more frequently an ironic usage, i.e., the woe(!) following would definitely be a FWP.)

  6. This is awesome! Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    I’m overwhelmed at the number of times a snark (and its general acceptance and understanding in society) would have saved me from email-misinterpretation-dilemmas.

    As for the interrobang!? The name alone inspires me to implement a conjoined Question/Exclamation mark in future 🙂

    1. i wish there were more opportunities to say the word ‘interrobang’ – it’s just such a great word. i mean, i am as fond of ampersand as anyone, but BOOM! interrobang!!

      1. I love the “Because” sign as well.

        I use three dots for “Therefore” all the time when taking notes at work… now I can totally turn it on its head – that and the “Because” sign looks like somebody has doodled a lost polar bear.

        1. yes! the ‘therefore’ dots! i remember them. i can barely wield a biro any more, i am so used to typing.

          who knew that when i was at high school and i was relegated to typing and shorthand that it would be the FUTURE. (unfortunately i took against shorthand and resisted learning it, not realising it would be quite handy to have even if i was never a secretary, which i have never been, but at least i can touch type, so YAY for being in the z stream).

            1. i am particularly pleased that i learned it before learning itself became horribly painful. it was a great thing to learn at school.
              despite having both learned and taught computing related stuff i am rubbish at computers and always find myself whining really hard when i have to learn new things. i am especially hysterical about my new “smart” phone, who is TOO smart by my estimation and really wants throwing against a wall.
              my dog seems to know some key commands that i am unaware of. odd things happen to the laptop when she joins in. i think she is secretly a programmer. still, at least she has stopped biting it.

  7. I’m tired of all the grammar rules. Why can’t we just do what we want? Also, I can’t figure out which words have become compound words and which haven’t. I’m just going to start smashing them up altogether regardless. I’m going to be a grammar rebel and it is not going to make me look at all stupid.

    Please don’t tell Lucy’s Football ( I said ANY of this!

    1. originally, things like commas were entirely about how you would phrase something for reading out, since all texts were religious or legal. trying to find my writing voice, i find i am relying on how i actually speak. i feel like this works for me. partly, it just makes sense in my mind when i read it, and while i am writing, but also, i have done readings and very much enjoyed doing that. my neighbour has a recording booth, and has offered to help me record some little bits – probably just from my blog, and i am rather excited about that. if i hadn’t written the way i speak i couldn’t do that as easily. i really love the way that david sedaris makes this work.

      my spelling has gone completely up the wall since i started communicating with americans – i am now thoroughly mid atlantic spelling wise.

      english is a living language. rules only last as long as they are useful.

      i think we can keep this between ourselves. besides which, i still want to be able to complain when someone breaks the rules in a way i don’t like.

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