With Winterval approaching, and bearing in mind the concomitant need to find gifts for our nearest and dearest, may I present a gift that I would dearly love to receive: Emoji Dick; or 🐳. This is, as editor Fred Benenson explains, “a crowd sourced and crowd funded translation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick into Japanese emoticons called emoji”; Shady Characters readers will be well aware of the general concept of emoticons, of course, and emoji are effectively an expanded set of such symbols composed of graphical images rather than typographic marks.
As a fan of Melville’s most famous book, and, well, a blogger and writer on the subject of unusual punctuation, I don’t think I have to explain just how loudly this book speaks to me. Benenson talked to Sally Law at The New Yorker about the genesis of the translation, and I encourage you to have a read through the interview before you head to lulu.com TO BUY ME THIS BOOK.*
Speaking of ALL CAPS, last month The Chronicle of Higher Education delved into the import of this oldest of Internet irritations. As well as the use of caps, however, Anne Curzan also discusses the changing use of punctuation — and especially how the lack of punctuation has become normal in some contexts. She notes that “Texting must compensate for the lack of physical cues we have in face-to-face conversation for determining emotional content”, and that punctuation has evolved to keep pace:
For example, “okay” is neutral, but “okay.” (with the period) is a little bit stern if not a little bit angry, and “okay…” (with ellipsis) is downright unhappy and/or skeptical.
This dovetails neatly with a recent chat I had with Ben Crair of the New Republic, in which he posited that “The Period Is Pissed”, and asked: “When did our plainest punctuation mark become so aggressive?” Perhaps I haven’t picked up on the mores of instant messaging to the required degree, but I’m not sure that I quite concur; am I hopelessly behind the times, or is the humble period now freighted with aggression?
In other news, I was happy to be able to introduce my friend Alexandra Silverman to Penny Speckter recently. Alex profiled Penny for Narratively, and she has captured her absolutely perfectly. You must read her article!
Lastly, some time ago I spoke to David Plaisant for Monocle 24’s design programme “Section D”, and the show is now available online should you want to listen. Yours truly pops up at around 17 minutes in.
Thanks for reading!