Daily Prompt: We all have strange relationships with punctuation- do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without?
What are my punctuation quirks?
I used to work in an inner-city, multicultural suburb and loved it. One of my favourite shop signs was outside the Greek butcher’s (there was only one Greek butcher), advertising “lambs’ legs”. It was one of my favourites because it showed so clearly the subtleties of our language. I couldn’t buy, however. A leg of lamb is impersonal, several steps away from being a living creature, or in this case, a wriggling and cute bundle of fluff. A lamb’s leg, belongs to that wriggling bundle. Consider the difference between chicken drumsticks and a chicken’s drumstick. I love language! It’s so clever.
While I’m on apostrophes, I confess now that I may one day turn into that eccentric woman who goes around with a large, red, permanent marker correcting apostrophes on public signs. Here in Australia it has become almost the accepted practice that if there is an “s” on the end then it has an apostrophe. No, no, no! and again, no!! You can probably tell it more than irritates me, I can become obsessed about it. I think I’ll buy that permanent marker today and get started.
You may have guessed already that one of my weaknesses is for exclamation marks. Yes, I have read, is it Elmore Leonard’s criticism of their use? I flicked that article to my niece, but found myself unable to stop myself from using these little marks in my accompanying email. (My niece uses them too, so there!)
In another life, very long ago, I taught Primary school and every day included a grammar lesson. I hope those children have never been guilty of an apostrophe whenever they felt like it, or a comma put anywhere. Last time I worked in a school I had to point out to someone ( he had authority and could get it changed) the use of a comma in a simple sentence; this on a notice that was to be placed all around the school. How could we as educators, publish a grammatical mistake? The person concerned refused to change it and there was a limit to how far I could push it. She insisted that there was a verb and a phrase, therefore there must be a comma. So, nowadays we teach them the ungrammatical. The fact that language is meaning and that our thinking can never be precise if we can’t express ourselves accurately causes me great concern. Bertrand Russell, years ago, feared we were becoming a civilization of barbarians with the tools of technology. The loss of sophisticated language is part of that.
I confess: I need to re-visit the use of colons and semi-colons and I promise I will.
I do recommend Jane Strauss and her Blue Grammar Book.
I wonder what your quirks are? What makes you want a large, red, permanent marker? (Do I put commas between each of those adjectives? Does quirks have an apostrophe?…Only joking!)