Off-topic

– Posted in: Miscellaneous
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Okay, it has nothing at all to do with gardening, but I found this article on the front page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal so amusing that I just had to share it with somebody. At first, I thought I’d just email a message to a few of my punctuation-loving friends, but I finally decided to share it with all of you. Now the WSJ doesn’t offer much of its content online, so I’m just going to have to give you the gist of it. You can always walk into a public library and look up the print article if you want the whole scoop. [Goldsmith, Charles. “A Period Piece Punctuates Fear of Elliptical in U.K.” Wall Street Journal 15 Dec. 2003: A1+. All quotations are from this article.]

A book called Eats, Shoots & Leaves, written by Lynne Truss, has become a surprise best-seller over in Britain. Its “Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” has apparently struck a chord with over 500,000 buyers of the book. That’s not so amusing in itself.

What I find amusing are the details included in the article. Example 1, the Queen’s English Society “vows to ‘defend the precision, subtlety and marvelous richness of our language against debasement, ambiguity and other forms of misuse.'” Example 2, one of the ways Profile Books, the publisher, marketed the book was through “a T-shirt that on the front says, ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing,’ and on the back says, ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing.'” Santa, I want one!

Example 3: “The book is selling as a holiday gift. ‘The Brits are a pedantic race,’ says Scott Pack, buying manager for Britain’s big Waterstone’s bookstore chain. ‘Everyone knows someone who is annoyingly pedantic about things,‘ he adds, ‘and what better present to give to someone like that?‘ Uh, maybe I don’t want to get the book as a gift. (Italics and bold in quote are mine.) Example 4, John Richards founded the Apostrophe Protection Society because “of all punctuation marks, ‘the apostrophe is the most blatantly abused.'” I’ve noticed that myself, but I never thought to start a society about it.

And I’ve saved the best for last. Rod Liddle wrote a column in a recent London Times entitled A Pain in the Colon, in which he claims “that Ms. Truss’s book appeals to a ‘cabal of pedants’ that attacks [take a deep breath] ‘dumb mutt uneducated scumbag working class people who having been given the gift of grammar by good middle class educationalists proceed nonetheless to rape it over and over again with their disgusting and frankly risible abuse of punctuation.'” Whew! By use of my wonderful library’s online database subscription, I was able to track this down to the December 6th issue of the newspaper, page 8. If you have similar resources you should check it out. It’s a hoot–but be forewarned: It has some strong language in it. [Liddle, Rod. “A Pain in the Colon; Liddle at Large.” Times [London, England] 6 Dec. 2003: 8]

And yes, I tried awfully hard to make sure my punctuation was correct.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Judith December 19, 2003, 12:56 am

Then you need, if you don’t already have, this book: ‘The New Well-Tempered Sentence, A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed’ by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Bizarre and hilarious are words A Common Reader uses for it. This and the New Transitive Vampire are great.