Tag Archives: quotation marks

Onomatopoeic punctuation

There is someone in our family who ends sentences with punctuation–when he speaks.

As in “How are you doing, question mark?” This is an affectation among many this person has; in this case, perhaps to be clever or maybe just for emphasis. I tried to stop questioning it long ago, but every now and then, along comes the whiplash-inducing oral punctuation.

In grade school, we learned to express punctuation with the tones of our voices. We end questions a little higher on the tonal scale. We raise our voices as we approach an exclamation point. But in and of itself, punctuation has no sound.

I suspect there are a number of readers out there who are fans of the late Victor Borge, the renowned Danish pianist, conductor and comedian. He died in 2000, so I’d encourage younger readers in whose childhood homes Borge wasn’t required viewing to take a look at his work. Pure brilliance.

I likely saw this routine at some point in my life, but it didn’t strike me quite so vividly as it did over the weekend, when my cousin–under 25, I might add, and a fellow wordie–shared it on Facebook.

Please enjoy it and think of Mr. Borge whenever you punctuate. How fun would it be if punctuation always came alive this way?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

Centesimal celebration

I am tired of talking about me.  When I posted my first blog entry in late March, I expressed discomfort about blogs in general, because people tend to use them as platforms for talking about themselves, and I just didn’t want to do that.

Today, on the occasion of Word Nymph’s 100th blog entry, let’s take a look at some others.

If you are reading this from the Word Nymph site (as opposed to a subscription e-mail), look toward the right of the screen and scroll down just a bit.  You will see a section entitled Blogroll, and a list of half a dozen blogs I visit regularly.

But first, let’s talk about me—and why I’ve chosen these six.

I am interested in broadcast news, as a viewer of course.  Not just the Holly Hunter movie, but live television news.  I watch as much of it as a working person can fit into a day.  In Advancing the Story, veteran journalists Deborah Potter and Deb Halpern Wenger provide an enlightened glimpse into broadcast media—the art and the science, the complexities and the nuances.  Their recent piece on interviewing victims was inspired.

I am a lover of words, a lifelong learner and maker of mistakes.  I try to be tolerant of others’ mistakes but draw a big fat line between an earnest slip and steady patterns of egregious violation.  I have peeves that make me itch like a case of poison ivy.  I commend to you two blogs that illustrate blatant assaults on our language.  Please visit Apostrophe Abuse, study it and tell all your friends—be militant about it—that apostrophes do not make words plural.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, an “s” makes a noun plural, NO APOSTROPHE needed, or wanted.  My family and I are the Welches, not the Welch’s.  We are not having the Nelson’s over for dinner and we won’t be serving clam’s.  The blog will give you a good laugh and, I hope, a good lesson.  Let’s stop the abuse.

I am serious about punctuation.  What I’ve said about the apostrophe, likewise with quotation marks.  If we keep using them unnecessarily, they will become endangered and we won’t have them when we really need them—for quotations.  Please visit The “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks and notice how silly it looks to wrap serious punctuation around ordinary words willy-nilly.   If you want to make words stand out, there are plenty of text formats available, including italics (CTL + i), bold (CTL + b) and underline (CTL + u).  And if you must—and only if you must—ALL CAPS.  Please do not use quotation marks for emphasis.

I love English, but realize what we speak in the United States is American (I love that too).  I am also interested in all things international.  The Economist is a magazine that is read and respected by intelligent people throughout the international community.  It maintains a high standard of thought and writing, so when it launched a language blog, Johnson, earlier this summer, naturally, I signed up.  Check it out.

I love humor, possibly above all else.  My motto is “laughter heals” and I need a steady diet of it or I’ll die.  If you too need a chuckle a day, log on to The Sticky Egg.  The Egg posts every day, providing a full week’s worth of minimum daily hilarity, as the clever Carla Curtsinger muses about the entertainment biz and life in New York City.  She’ll also explain the origin of her moniker.  Be sure and check out her Blogroll.

I miss my kid.  He grew up in the blink of an eye, probably because I worked 12 hours a day and traveled regularly for the first 15 years of his life.  To bring back memories of having a child in the house, I get great enjoyment from the colorful tales of Cara Garretson, a  mother of two young kids, a gifted storyteller and a writer who works at home.  Time Out will make you smile.

But enough about me.

See you Monday.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, News, Reading, Technology and Social Media

Lay down your peeves

Personally, I find the “Got milk?” ad—and every tired play on it—peeve-provoking.

I found myself tempted to ask, “Got peeves?”  in a tone of ridicule but thankfully, I had my answer before I had the chance to type those clichéd words.

Comments I received on a recent piece on poorly written song lyrics showed that my readers are bursting with word usage gripes, off the radio as well as on.

So, friends, this playground is safe.  Let ‘em out. 

I have a top 10 list of my own, in no particular order.  If there’s sufficient interest, we can explore each one in detail at some later time.  

Apostrophe used to form a plural.  I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it’s tempting when the tag reads From: The Smith’s

“I” used as an objective pronoun, as in please send your response to Mary and I.  If Mary drops out, send your response to I?  Really?  Conversely, some of the same people bugged by I turn right around and say, she is as old as me.

“Myself,” other than as a reflexive pronoun, as in, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself.  You cannot contact myself because you are not I.  Also, “myself” is not an intelligent substitute for “I.”

“Different than” instead of “different from.”  This one appears to have cropped up lately and is getting out of control, even among the most articulate of speakers.  Someone please do something.

Prepositions as sentence-enders.  I realize the rules have relaxed on this one and I am willing to accept that, where it makes sense.  Where it does not make sense:  “How long were you gone for?”  “Where did you get that from?”  “How late will you be out til?”

Random quotation marks.  If you are going to put something in quotes, someone better have said it.  Who said, Wipe your “Feet?”   This example comes from the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks  – check it out for a chuckle. 

Mispronunciation.  One example, Pulitzer is PULL-it-ser, not PEW-lit-ser.  NU-cle-ar, not NU-cue-lar.  I could go on—and will.

Punctuation outside the quotation marks, when writing in the United States.  I realize the Europeans do it differently but, until Jeopardy is filmed in the UK, I’d like the clue-writers to put periods and commas back inside the quotes.

Adverbs preceding absolute adjectives—such as unique, true, accurate or pregnant.  Nothing is “very unique,” “so true,” “completely accurate” or “a little bit pregnant.”  It is or it isn’t.

People who don’t think good grammar matters, especially public speakers.  I read an analogy once that likened good speech to a practiced art.  The commentator noted that, when we go to a musical performance and a singer hits the wrong note, we don’t say, “that’s all right, I know what note he meant to sing.”

Wow, it’s hard to stop at 10.

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Filed under All Things Wordish