3.29.2005

to: the office of Apostropher Royal

"On a TV news bulletin, the results of a vox pop item were shown on screen under the heading "Grammer Test"--the spelling of which I assumed was a joke until I realised nobody in the studio was laughing. Meanwhile well-wishers sent hundreds of delightful/horrific examples of idiotic sign-writing, my current favourite being the roadside warning Children Drive Slowly--courtesy of the wonderful Shakespearean actor Timothy West. Evidently, this sign--inadvertently descriptive of the dissapointing 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.

"Carved in stone (in stone, mind you) in a Florida shopping mall one may see the spendidly apt quotation from Euripides, 'Judge a tree from it's fruit: not the leaves'--and it is all too easy to imagine the stone-mason dithering momentarily over that monumental apostrophe, mallet in hand, chisel poised. Can an apostrophe ever be wrong, he asks himself, as he answers 'Nah!' and decisively strikes home and the chips fly out. Meanwhile a casual driver in America is quite as horrifying to a stickler as it is in the UK. Childrens home; readers outlet; please do not lock this door between the hour's of 9AM and 6:30PM.

"Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. 'Come inside,' it says, 'for CD's, VIDEO's, DVD's, and BOOK's.'
If this satantic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put down this book at once. By all means congratulate yourself that you are not a pedant or even a stickler; that you are happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting punctuation standards; but just don't bother to go any further. For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word 'Book's' with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.

"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 posters slung along the sides of buses in letters four feet tall, with no apostrophe in sight. I remember, at the start of the Two Weeks Notice publicity campaign in the spring of 2003, emerging cheerfully from Victoria Station (was I whistling?) and stopping dead in my tracks with my fingers in my mouth. Where was the apostrophe? Surely there should be an apostrophe on that bus? If it were 'one month's notice' there would be an apostrophe (I reasoned); yes, and if it were 'one week's notice' there would be an apostrophe. Then 'two weeks' notice' requires an apostrophe! Buses that I should have caught (the 73; two 83s) sailed off up Buckingham Palace Road while I communed thus at length with my inner stickler, unable to move or, indeed, regain any sense of perspective.

"Part of one's despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler. While we look in horror at a badly puntuated sign, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight. We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation. Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones: dead puntuation is invisible to everyone else - yet we see it all the time No one understands us seventh-sense people. They regard us as freaks. When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggresively instructed to "get a life" by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves. Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions. Being burned as a witch is not safely enough off the agenda. A sign has gone up in a local charity-shop window which says, baldly, 'Can you spare any old records' (no question mark) and I dither daily outside on the pavement. Should I go in an mention it? It does matter that there's no question mark on a direct question. It is appaling ignorance. But what will I do if the elderly charity-shop lady gives me the usual disbelieving stare and then tells me to bugger off, get a life and mind my own business?

"On the other hand, I'm well aware there is little profit in asking for sympathy for sticklers. We are not the easiest people to feel sorry for. We refuse to patronise any shop with checkouts for 'eight items or less' (because it should be 'fewer')...When we hear the construction 'Mr. Blair was stood' (instead of 'standing') we suck our teeth with annoyance, and when words such as 'phenomena', 'media' or 'cheribum' are treated as singular ('The media says it was quite a phenomena looking at those cheribums'), some of us cannot suppress actual screams. Sticklers never read a book without a pencil in hand, to correct the typographical errors. In short, we are unattractive know-all obsessives who get things out of proportion and are in continual peril of being disowned by out exasperated families."

-

I could share plenty more with you all, but I'm afraid I'm being terribly obsessive. These are select excerpts from Lynne Truss's brilliant book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. It's amazing; I'm afraid I have finally found someone who relates to my obsessive compulsive disorder over grammar and punctuation. It is such a delight to read this book--I feel as if I could have written it! My mom found it and bought it for me, thinking I would enjoy it, though I had heard many a thing about it from Mrs. Sylvia and Victoria who both described it as "Your book". My mom thought it would be perfect for me, though I had never mentioned it to her before. Great minds think alike, I suppose. Or, my mother knows me all too well. ;)

I'm sure this totally bored all of you, but I felt it my obligation to share it, because it brings me such joy and excitement. Reading this literally brings me to tears simply from laughing so hard. And, alas! An explanation for those who just don't know the proper way to use apostrophes. Not to mention "there" (there, they're, their), "to" (two, to, too), "your" (your, yours [no apostrophe!], you're), and "its" (its [possessive], it's [contraction]). They should make every person who reads, writes and speaks English to read this book. It's incredible!

Alright, I'm leaving now. I'm not having a very good day/week/month, etc...but I didn't feel like dumping that on everyone. Instead, I decided find something to be ebullient about; I think I've been somewhat successful. :)

God bless,
lv

O.A.S.N.
After all of that rambling, you still can't decide if you're a stickler or not? Take the quiz; I got a 100%! ^_^

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sticklers unite, you have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion, and arguably you didn't have a lot of that to begin with. Maybe we won't change the world, but at least we'll feel better. The important thing is to unleash your Inner Stickler, while at the same time not getting punched on the nose, or arrested for damage to private property...Be a nuisance. Do something. And if possible use a bright red pen. Send back emails that are badly punctuated; return letters; picket Harrods. Who cares if members of your family abhor your Inner Stickler...At least if you adopt a zero tolerance approach, when you next see a banner advertising 'CD's, DVD's, Video's, and Book's', you won't just stay indoors getting depressed about it. Instead you will engage in some direct-action argy-bargy!"
Lynne Truss

Tori said...

haha. nice. and yes, it was obsessive. overly so. lol. grammar stuff drives me nuts too but im no where near as bad as you (notice my lack of punctuation in this comment. see, on the internet i dont really care. mwahaha and i know that drives you nuts!) i took the quiz. im not disclosing my score (im rather embarrased, i missed the first one even though i know full well what the answer should have been! i was caught off-guard and not in a thinking mood but whatever), but i will say that i have been named a stickler. ha like i didnt already know that. anyway...yeah thats it. bye!!!

Tori said...

ahem ahem, a typo on that first comment of mine. where i said "i have been named i stickler," i meant to say that i had been named a "high-ranking stickler." lol sorry about that. (because on the quiz it give you the % of a stickler you are...how would you says that sentence properly anyway? anyway so just plain stickler doesnt make sense.lol)

emily said...

I am obsessive about punctuation, but I am moreso about spelling. UGH Bad spelling is my biggest pet peave.

Leslie Virginia said...

Oh yes! I hear you, Emily! Really, for me, it's all around: Grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. But, as I pointed out in my post, one of my largest pet peaves is the misuse of you're/your, their/there/they're, it's/its, and to/two/too. I have noticed several times where I have been guilty of this terrible fault myself (clearly when I was extremely tired! :-p) and I want to freak out. I wish there was correction fluid for the internet! :gah:

Leslie Virginia said...

P.S. Emily, I love our little flower pictures. @-->---

Leslie Virginia said...

P.S.S. How do you guys like the (fairly) new layout? And the sidebar? I'm so proud of that. The links, the currents...:gah: I offically loath HTML, though. It's awful. However, it does manage to make things look nice.

mamaw said...

Emily and L.V. ... I eavesdropped on your conversation about punctuation and spelling. I chuckled when Emily said "bad spelling is my pet peave." At first I thought it was tongue in cheek since it's actually spelled peeve, but then Leslie replied and spelled it the same (erroneous) way. I don't mean to be a spelling Nazi, but in the future, you might want to use the correct spelling.
XOXO JZS

Leslie Virginia said...

HAHA! Wow. I never did know how to spell peeve, but I just assumed it was "peave". Thank you for correcting our awful errors. :)