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Punctuation Can Be Insulting!

8 Sep

September 8, 2011

As a former English guy (teacher, not Briton) I tend to be sensitive about grammar and punctuation, which is why I play fast and loose with it in my posts. You see, you have to know grammar in order to get away with screwing around with it. That is the difference between being an intellectual and being an idiot, but no one seems to agree which side of that divide I fall on.

At any rate, I get bugged when I see bad or ignorant use of the English language. So the other day I was looking up something online and I came across the website of radio station WFAN, New York’s pretentious sports talk station. They had a sidebar of reporter bios, and this one caught my eye.

My first thought was “why would the Yankees beat up a reporter?”  My second thought was that some punctuation can really change the intent of that blurb.

Quotation marks are totally mis-used. How many times do you see signs that say We will be “closed” on Sunday? Did you wonder if maybe they will really be open on Sunday? You never use quotation marks for emphasis, you use it for direct quotes or, as is more fun, to cast doubt. Does Sweeny Murti really have insights? Or is it just some silly rambling nonsense? The quotation marks make me think the later.

Now I don’t even believe he is a reporter. Who is this Murti guy, some clown off the street?

But it isn’t just quotation marks that can be used to insult and cast aspersions. Take the question mark, for example. Start with this:And just add punctuation!

A smarter take? Doubtful!

But if you insist on using quotation marks you can accomplish the same thing.

And here’s another one:

Let’s use punctuation to screw with Neil.

Yeah, “fan” my sweet Aunt Fanny. This guy isn’t a fan.

Go ahead, try it yourself! Now that you know how to use proper punctuation to insult, there is a whole new world of nasty out there for you. Enjoy!

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7 Responses to “Punctuation Can Be Insulting!”

  1. Thomas Stazyk September 8, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    I hate when people misuse quotes. There ought to be a law.

    I loved fighting with English teachers about grammar. I once started a sentence with “but,” and the teacher wasn’t happy. I said that Hemingway started sentences wih “but” and she said, “When you write like Hemingway, you can start sentences with “but.”” We didn’t discuss the implications of her statement.

    Another time with another teacher I broke some rule and when called on it told the teacher that rules were made to be broken or something equally profound. She was a dessicated old bag and she said, “One must have more than a passing understanding of the rules before one is entitled to break them.”

    What is important to note is that I don’t remember anything a math or science teacher ever told me.

    Like

    • bmj2k September 8, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      The rule about using “but” doesn’t bug me like misusing quotes because it doesn’t change the sentences meaning. Gettig quotes wrong changes that. And there are some times it is fine to start with “but.”

      I remember a lot math teachers told me, but it is all stuff like “wrong answer” and “you fail.”

      Like

  2. Mac of BIOnighT September 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Most Italians just can’t use punctuation. What I really can’t stand is especially the way they use commas. This comes in two flavors: no commas (or anything else, for that matter) at all, and a comma every three or four words.

    I copied this random text from the net (please imagine it is Italian):
    “A man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to his role in a conspiracy to conduct an illegal gambling business by operating poker games in his home.
    Federal prosecutors say Donald E. Bishop, 66, used his residence in Republic to operate a casino-style poker game.
    According to a news release from the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Bishop operated two professionally-constructed poker tables, employed professional dealers and waitresses, and received payments for each hand dealt.”

    Now, Italian punctuation version no 1:
    “A man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to his role in a conspiracy to conduct an illegal gambling business by operating poker games in his home federal prosecutors say Donald E. Bishop 66 used his residence in Republic to operate a casino-style poker game according to a news release from the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Bishop operated two professionally-constructed poker tables employed professional dealers and waitresses and received payments for each hand dealt.”

    Italian punctuation version no 2:
    “A man, pleaded guilty, in federal court, Wednesday, to his role in a conspiracy, to conduct an illegal gambling business, by operating, poker games in his home, federal prosecutors, say Donald E. Bishop 66 used, his residence in Republic to operate a casino-style, poker game according to a news release, from the U. S. Attorney for the Western District, of Missouri Bishop operated, two professionally-constructed poker tables employed, professional dealers and waitresses and received, payments for each hand dealt.”

    The most irritating thing is subject-comma-verb, which is so totally moronic as to make me wonder what the writer has in his head instead of a brain.

    Like

    • bmj2k September 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

      I tend to use a lot of commas but it’s because I try to replicate the pauses when I speak, to make it seem natural. Then I go back and take about 1/3 of them out.

      Like

      • Mac of BIOnighT September 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

        Yes, me too, but I’ll bet you don’t write “He, was crossing, the road” like they do…

        Like

        • bmj2k September 8, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

          Only when I do Valley Girl: “He was, like, totally crossing the road, you know?”

          Like

  3. The Hook September 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Nice break from the norm, good sir!
    Awesome post!

    Like

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