A post from Shady Characters

Miscellany № 29

A genuine miscellany this week; a grab-bag of punctuational ephemera to chew over at your leisure. First, I would draw your attention to Benjamin Samuel’s forensic, heart-breaking, and hilarious ode to the comma at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. I quote:

The comma can also be deployed to separate, organize, and distinguish objects in a list. Consider the list below:

You left behind your box set of Marlon Brando DVDs, ungraded papers, 
running shoes, and that preposterous Slap Chop you bought from the TV.

Similarly, a comma is needed for the following series of actions:

She had everything waiting on the kitchen counter (clearly she hoped to dispatch me quickly), but with a wave of my arm I knocked it all to the floor, then seized the Slap Chop, held its spring-assisted blades against my chest, and claimed I’d Slap-Chop my heart to pieces if she hadn’t already left it minced.

Next, Megan Garber of The Atlantic has followed up on Stan Carey’s recent blog post about the many-splendored names of the exclamation mark with an article entitled “‘Screamer,’ ‘Slammer,’ ‘Bang’ … and 15 Other Ways to Say ‘Exclamation Point’”. (I’ve done the decent thing and replaced primes with inverted commas.) Read both — Stan first, then Megan — to get the full effect. Having just done so, I find myself suffused with a desire to champion the Urban Dictionary’s entertaining “shout pole”.

Lastly, and most tangentially, Ben Eisen of the All Time Top Ten music podcast tweeted recently to ask the question: “what are the ten greatest songs (with parentheses in the title)?” He and David Daskal attempt to answer it here.


And let’s not forget, of course, that a certain book is now available for pre-order.

6 comments on “Miscellany № 29

  1. Comment posted by Anthony Bailey on

    “Alternian” as the etymology in the Urban Dictionary “shout pole” definition indicates they agree this one is the invention of Andrew Hussie writing my favorite webcomic Homestuck. http://www.mspaintadventures.com/?s=6

    The story’s use and occasional explicit acknowledgement of punctuation in an online chat context is joyful. (See also: character case and related typing quirks.)

    “Your Shout Pole Is Like A Tower Broadcasting Your Fear Across The Ring And You Are Right To Be Afraid” is one of the four “shout pole” uses.

    And one of the three uses of the equivalent term for “?” is “I JUST GOT ONE CAN OF SURPRISE NOODLES LEFT TO BUST OPEN HERE AND I KNOW HOW YOU LOVE YOUR NOODLES. DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME??????????????”

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Anthony,

      You’ll be gratified to hear that I am now irretrievably addicted to Homestuck. Also, I found the use of “shout pole” that you mention, and I have absolutely no idea how Homestuck can get from where I am now to where “shout pole” first pops up.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Comment posted by H James Lucas on

    Keith—could you elaborate on your parenthetical about “replac[ing] primes with inverted commas”? I think you might be talking about the apostrophes in Ms Garber’s article title, but I may have missed something. (Also: the links to Mr Carey’s article are broken due to extraneous content in the target URL.)

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi H,

      You’re right to catch that! I’m guilty of conflating two similar marks. Unicode uses the term “apostrophe” for the vertical, “dumb” quotation mark that keyboards generate by default ('), while the “prime” is slightly canted (′) and is typically used to indicate minutes or feet. “Inverted comma” is the British term for the directional quotation mark (‘ or ’), which is generally recommended for use in place of Unicode’s non-directional apostrophe character.

      Also, thanks for catching the broken links — I’ve made the appropriate fixes.

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. Comment posted by H James Lucas on

      (I dashed that off rather quickly and it looks a bit snarky to my fresh eyes this morning; please don’t take it as such.)

    3. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Not at all! Constructive criticism is always welcome.

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