a panda walks into a cafe. he orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
“why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. the panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
“i’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “look it up.”
the waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
“panda. large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to china. eats, shoots and leaves.”
i read lynne truss’s eats, shoots & leaves this past weekend (subtitle: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation). never in my life would i have imagined it would be so much fun to read a book about punctuation (and learn a bunch in the process!).
i’m no grammarian. karla yaconelli loves catching me in an email slip up, like using “their” instead of “they’re”. frankly, that kind of stuff totally bugs me too — i just get sloppy in emails sometimes. i will say, i’m more of a stickler for punctuation than i am for grammar. it drives me up a wall when i see misplaced apostrophes. emails with no punctuation other than elipses (…and dozens of them…) tempt me to locate the sender and personally smack him around a bit, all in the best interest of society.
not that i’m error-free! please! everyone is allowed punctuation errors. it’s the consistent — or clearly clueless (even if it’s a single useage) — punctuation error that causes me to grind my teeth, and, as my irish friends say (as does author lynne truss, once in the book): leads me to go a bit argy-bargy.
on a positive note: i really like good and creative punctuation. astute readers of my blog will know i have a fondness for colons, semi-colons and dashes. i have to be careful not to overuse them (a stern warning in the book). but it would really be a shame if we lost these beautiful little bits of our punctuation arsenal.
a favorite paragraph:
it’s tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. one almost dare not get up in the mornings. true, one occaisionally hears a marvellous punctuation-fan joke about a panda who “eats, shoots and leaves”, but in general the stickler’s exquisite sensibilities are assaulted from all sides, causing feelings of panic and isolation. a sign at a health club will announce, “i’ts party time, on saturday 24th may we are have a disco/party night for free, it will be a ticket only evening.” advertisements offer decorative services to “wall’s — ceiling’s — door’s ect”. meanwhile a newspaper placard announces “FAN’S FURY AT STADIUM INQUIRY”, which sounds quite interesting until you look inside the paper and discover that the story concerns a quite large mob of fans, actually — not just the lone hopping-mad fan so promisingly indicated by the punctuation.