Archive for the ‘Punctuation’ Category

Apostrophes for the season

June 26, 2014

On Facebook, Chris Hansen (looking forward to London Pride this weekend) reports this advert for Fortnum & Mason:

You wouldn’t expect the venerable F&M to get their apostrophes wrong (they are in fact Grocers to the Queen), and indeed this punctuational choice was entirely intentional.

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A comma, doctor!

April 29, 2014

From a letter to the editor (written 4/24) in the NYT today, from Peter Balakian (a professor of the humanities at Colgate University) of Hamilton NY, on “Turks and Armenians” (the crucial piece is boldfaced):

… For Turkey to deal with this history in an ethical way, it must acknowledge the consensus on the historical record that is detailed in the open letter from the International Association of Genocide Scholars to Prime Minister Erdogan in June 2005.

The association notes that the intended mass killing of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government constitutes genocide in every aspect of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention. It also notes that Raphael Lemkin, a legal scholar, was the first to apply the term “genocide” to the extermination of the Armenians, in the 1940s

This says that Lemkin was the first to use the term for the extermination of the Armenians and suggests that it had been used previously for other exterminations: the PP to the extermination of the Armenians is functioning as a restrictive modifier of the VP apply the term “genocide”. But that’s almost surely not what Balakian intended; certainly, it’s not what he should have intended, since the OED tells us that Lemkin’s use of “genocide” is in fact the first recorded use of the term.

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Three for the day (Easter)

April 20, 2014

Today’s crop of cartoons includes a Bizarro, a Zippy, and a Mother Goose and Grimm:

(#1)

(#2)

(#3)

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Pesky capitalization

April 12, 2014

From Chris Waigl on Facebook, this image of a headline.

Among the most common functions of initial caps are marking the first word of a sentence and marking proper names. Both are, at least at first, here. But the ‘annoying memorabilia’ interpretation is very unlikely. Then you need to know that Johnny Pesky was a baseball player — a fact immediately made clear in the body of the story,

Today’s holiday

February 17, 2014

This is an odd American holiday. This Washington Post piece from yesterday — “Why Presidents’ Day is slightly strange” by Valerie Strauss — explains why.

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Comma time

February 8, 2014

Today’s Bizarro has yet another version of the Comma Joke, repeated in many places over the years:

The contrast is between expressions that are tightly connected syntactically to the rest of their syntax (as in Kiss the cook) vs. those that are loose adjuncts of one type or another — vocatives or, as in this case, appositives.

(Note: this was originally posted under the heading Apostrophe Time. My mental gears slipped between apostrophe and comma, as several readers have pointed out. Some days I’m not very sharp.)

Apostrophe in plural

October 16, 2013

A friend wrote me yesterday with this punctuational query (edited here to cloak some details):

I am teaching an online course … this semester …  The course material is mostly pre-written for me, but I’ve been going through it myself, of course.  One thing I noted is that acronyms [what I would call initialisms; see below] are sometimes made plural with the letter s, sometimes with apostrophe s.  I guess what bothers me most is the inconsistency.

I was looking through Language Log and your blog for the topic of plural acronyms with and without apostrophes, but came up blank.  Do you know of anything on current thoughts on this topic, or have any yourself?

MBA (Master in Business Administration) is an initialistic name of a degree; is its plural MBAs (no apostrophe) or MBA’s?

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Snarky spelling and punctuation

October 14, 2013

Three e-cards. The first is one in a long series illustrating the perils of going without punctuation — in this case, without commas that mark off syntactic constituents (in a way that receives expression in speech as well as on the page):

(#1)

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The apostrophe and a non-dangler

September 25, 2013

Katy Steinmetz on the TIME blog yesterday, in “Say It Aint So: The Movement to Kill the Apostrophe: On National Punctuation Day, here’s a look at efforts to obliterate the apostrophe and unleash a Wild West of unmarked possession”:

Today is the 10th annual National Punctuation Day, a high holiday on nerd calendars across these great United States. Its stated purpose is to be a celebration of underappreciated, misused marks like the semicolon and “the ever mysterious ellipsis.” But a better-known piece of punctuation has been getting some apocalyptic press and deserves attention on this day of celebration: the apostrophe.

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Two from The Week

September 23, 2013

Two recent items from the magazine The Week: Neal Whitman on libfixes, James Harbeck on apostrophes. Both with humor.

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