Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Finally, we are finally doing punctuation. I lurve punctuation, I just loave it, especially commas. My redoubtable, Vaderesque philosophy professor in college, discussing a paper I had written, once told me "Watching you with semicolons -- it's like a child with a new toy."

He didn't mean it as a compliment; but I've toned it down a bit since then; I think. Doubtless a leftover from my years-long Chesterton binge.

Also, the em-dash is my new love. I have to remember to program a shortcut key for that -- double-dashes don't have the same heft. A good em-dash has something weighty, solid, and noirish to it, like a fedora; double-dashes are like a straw beach hat. But I can't figure out the ASCII shortcuts on my compact laptop keyboard (Fn+Ctrl+Alt+0336 or something), and I'm too lazy to open up charmap every time. Fmeh.

We were discussing the distinction between declarative and exclamatory sentences. I pointed out that an exclamatory sentence, deceptively, often starts with an interrogative word. Examples: How bad you smell! What a lovely fedora!

On last night's worksheet, they were to punctuate "How much does that book by E. M. Forster cost?" ("And how many young, susceptible minds will it poison?" I didn't add.) Someone mis-punctuated it with a period. So I put these two example sentences on the board:
  • How much does that book cost?
  • How much that book costs!
Ensued the following dialogue:
Reina: What! That's slang! You put slang on the board!

Me: Huh? No, it's an exclamatory sentence. It's totally standard.

Reina: No! That's a question. Like, 'How much that book costs?' That's, like, ghetto.

Me: Ohh -- you mean like 'Yo, how much that book costs, yo?'

Class: [wincing, howling]

Reina: Mr. P...Please. Don't do that again. You're not made for that!
As usual, I should have known better. Did, actually. Oh well. Tomorrow we discuss the importance of comma placement: "Have you eaten, Grandma?" vs. "Have you eaten Grandma?" They are going to eat it up. Till then, peace out, yo.


  1. Wait a minute, who was the Vaderesque teacher?

  2. Mr. Shea. Vaderesque in voice anyway.

  3. Oh, Vaderesque as in Darth! I thought it was some sophisticated literary allusion that I was too poorly educated to get.

    Nevertheless, I knew you were talking about Mr. Shea.

  4. Ha. I think I make more Star Wars references than sophisticated literary allusions.

  5. R.T. (of Oklahoma)April 25, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    I'd just like to say that I just read your whole blog, including reading a decent bit of it aloud to my husband. We were both laughing out loud. Keep writing!
    (and we're plotting a visit)

  6. Sweet. Thanks for saying. Took me a minute to remember who I know with those initials. Sneaky newlywed.

    It will be great to see you.