Monday, April 27, 2009

The book that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Ok. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic. But this book really has changed my life. I know that you're probably thinking, "A book about punctuation? Really? Wow, I've always thought you were strange Emily, but this really seals the deal," but I promise that if you read this book you will never view the world the same way again (unless, of course, you are exceptionally good at repressing unpleasant things - by which I mean the shock of finding punctuation errors EVERYWHERE). Lynne Truss is a genius, and not because she's a master at using punctuation herself. No, she is a genius because she can explain punctuation in a way that is hilarious and helpful. I'm not one to mix up my it'ses and itses very often, but I've never really thought much about the semi-colon and the colon. I never used to use either one; now I can't go more than a few sentences without trying one out with a gleeful smile on my face. I'm questioning every little mark - and savoring the satisfaction of having learned to use them all properly. Plus, she's British. And did I mention hilarious?

For example:

About a sign reading "CHILDREN DRIVE SLOWLY" she wrote:

"Evidently, this sign - inadvertently descriptive of the disappointing road speeds attainable by infants at the wheel - was eventually altered (but sadly not improved) by the addition of a comma, becoming CHILDREN, DRIVE SLOWLY - a kindly exhortation, perhaps, which might even save lives among those self-same reckless juvenile road-users; but still not quite what the writer really had in mind."

"Too many jobs have been heaped on this tiny mark, and - far from complaining - the apostrophe has seemingly requested "More weight", just like that martyrish old codger in Arthur Miller's The Crucible, when religious bigots in black hats with buckles on are subjecting him to death by crushing. "More weight," the apostrophe has bravely said - if ever more faintly. "More weight," it manages to whisper still."

"I'm sure people did question whether Italian printers were quite the right people to legislate on the meaning of everything; but on the other hand, resistance was obviously useless against a family that could invent italics."

"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; circling and 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."

"In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."

Too many quotes? Ok, one more:

"The good news for punctuation is that the age of printing has been glorious and has held sway for more than half a millennium. The bad news for punctuation, however, is that the age of printing is due to hold its official retirement party next Friday afternoon at half-past five."

I wish everyone would read this book. Lynne's right, what with texting, blogging, twittering, etc... everybody is self-publishing these days, and correct punctuation and grammar are dying a very slow and painful death. We've all become lazy and we're not taking the trouble to remember or learn how to do things correctly.

Yours truly too.

Oh the shame! The embarrassment!

When I first created my blogging account I named our family "The Roundy's". Ever since then, every time I've left a comment "The Roundy's" has been posted right above it. I always felt uncomfortable about that little apostrophe. Was it right? Was it wrong? I was always telling myself to take the time to figure it out. I managed to convince myself that there must be some exception to the rule that you don't use an apostrophe before the "S" to pluralize things. Roundy's is so much more aesthetically pleasing than Roundys. Well, I was wrong. It's like I've been walking around the blogging world with a huge hunk of lettuce stuck in my front teeth!!! Arrrgghhh!!!

Read this book. It will save you from embarrassment. And have you rolling with laughter. And have you agreeing with Lynne when she says:

"Why did the Apostrophe Protection Society not have a militant wing? Could I start one? Where do you get balaclavas?"

Sign me up Lynne!

1 comment:

Buffy said...

Charity got Gillian the children's book of the same title that dealt with commas. We have loved it.