A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Punctuation

Post 16701

Recumbentman

I came across a transcript of a seventeenth-century will (Robert Burton's, in the Anatomy of Melancholy) and was surprised to find it did without punctuation marks altogether. Hence perhaps the convoluted legal language with occasional phrases WRITTEN IN capitals -- no doubt to guide the reader to the start of a section.

We haven't an Entry on the history of punctuation. A597143 is short and sweet, but it does rehash the myth that Jack's is a contraction of Jack his, with Jackes as an intermediate form. It seems that plain Jackes is the older way of showing possession, and the apostrophe was introduced to replace the elided e.

Just to confuse things, The Elizabethans did name things 'Captain Digorie Piper his Galliard' but that seems to be a case of false etymology.

Sam Beckett seems to have despised the semicolon. His last piece, Stirrings Still, even does without commas. Just fullstops, capitals, spaces, paragraphs, section numbers, and a few question marks. The master of austerity. http://mural.uv.es/sagrau/textos/stirring.html


Punctuation

Post 16702

Wand'rin star

Once upon a time I taught legal English. I was told that the lack of punctuation was deliberate: anything other than a full stop would indicate later insertion or forgery.
Earlier writers didn't use full stops either. This led to some celebrated Jarndyce type cases where the position of any necessary punctuation was hotly debated.smiley - starsmiley - star


Punctuation

Post 16703

Gnomon - time to move on

I must fix that mistake about Jackes being "Jack his" in the entry on Punctuation.


Punctuation

Post 16704

Recumbentman

There are some great punctuation puzzles, like this. What punctuation is needed to make sense of

Caesar entered on his head
A helmet on each foot
A sandal in his hand he held
His trusty sword to boot

or

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a mighty oak creep upon the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw a raging sea brim full of ale
I saw a Venice glass sixteen foot deep
I saw a well full of men's tears that weep
I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire
I saw a house as big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun even in the midst of night
I saw the man that saw this wondrous sight.


Punctuation

Post 16705

Gnomon - time to move on

smiley - biggrin


Punctuation

Post 16706

You can call me TC

When I was a legal secretary (early 70s), you weren't allowed to use punctuation marks at all when engrossing Wills or any other documents. You also had to learn how to tie the ribbons and I think we still used foolscap. I don't know if the legal profession has changed anything these days, or perhaps since the introduction of computers (which they presumably use). I could ask my cousin, who is still working as a legal secretary in the UK.

In Germany, I think there was punctuation on the documents when we bought our house, but I'm not sure.


Punctuation

Post 16707

Pit - ( Carpe Diem - Stay in Bed )

TC, don´t open THAT little shop of horrors.
Since the official German Grammar Deformation you find commata spread so generously that there´s hardly a word in between.


Punctuation

Post 16708

You can call me TC

I find it extremely annoying that Germans - even adults - when reading out loud, just stop at the commas, even though it doesn't make sense. Namely those which divide the subordinate clauses from the main clauses. smiley - doh Happens in church a lot, especially at this time of year. You have to re-construct the sentence in your head with different emphasis to work out what they are trying to say.

Anyway, this is a British English thread, not a German one. So - revenons à nos moutons.


Punctuation

Post 16709

Gnomon - time to move on

In English, every comma is a place where you should stop when speaking. That's the comma's function, and how you know where to put them - you just speak the sentence and see where the stops are.


Punctuation

Post 16710

Recumbentman

The Americans are much more meticulous about the function of a comma; The New Yorker published a review rubbishing Lynn Truss on this point. By (for instance) the Chicago Style Manual, a comma is used to divide a clause from another when one or both are incomplete. If both are complete, a comma is unsuitable, and either a period or a semicolon is required.


Punctuation

Post 16711

Gnomon - time to move on

I'd certainly go along with that one. Lynn Truss had an interesting slant on that one. You can use a comma to join two sentences together if you are a well-known author. Otherwise, avoid.


Punctuation

Post 16712

Recumbentman

That doesn't really cover it either!

You may always use punctuation creatively if you are writing creatively. Most situations call for punctuation that requires no special pondering by the reader.


Punctuation

Post 16713

Rod

>>In English, every comma is a place where you should stop when speaking.<< : Gnomon.

Not too happy about that, G, pause, yes, stop, not really


Punctuation

Post 16714

ITIWBS

When I was taking American business English, commas, semicolons, colons, quotes, semiquotes, parentheses and brackets were all grouped together as 'parentheticals'.


Punctuation

Post 16715

Gnomon - time to move on

>>where you should stop when speaking

I meant, of course, where you should stop for a small while. I didn't mean that you should stop and never continue!

Commas are short stops, semicolons are longer and the dot is a full stop.


Punctuation

Post 16716

~ jwf ~ scribblo ergo sum

smiley - bigeyes
And yet you used a short dash - above.

smiley - winkeye
~jwf~


Punctuation

Post 16717

Pit - ( Carpe Diem - Stay in Bed )

A short dash is running for smiley - ale before the kiosk closes.


even dictionaries make mistakes

Post 16718

~ jwf ~ scribblo ergo sum

smiley - bigeyes

dord
1934, a ghost word printed in "Webster's New International Dictionary" and defined as a noun used by physicists and chemists, meaning "density." In sorting out and separating abbreviations from words in preparing the dictionary's second edition, a card marked "D or d" meaning "density" somehow migrated
from the "abbreviations" stack to the "words" stack. The "D or d" entry ended up being typeset as a word, dord, and defined as a synonym for density. The mistake was discovered in 1939.

smiley - biggrin
~jwf~


Punctuation

Post 16719

U14993989

All I know is that time flies like an arrow whilst fruit flies like a banana.

This seems like an interesting fred, if I were immortal I would have time to read through it smiley - sadface


Punctuation

Post 16720

~ jwf ~ scribblo ergo sum

smiley - cheers

It is.
And happily it comes in spurts.
It can be like snacking, eating peanuts or popcorn.
No need to conquer it all like a mountain just because...

Drop in anywhere in the backlog and find brief discussions
usually a dozen or so postings on a given topic.

Then there'll be topic drift or a break; sometimes weeks
before a new discussion erupts.

It would be great if there was a search capability when looking
for specific Brit/Eng terms... but even google searches that begin
"h2g2 conversation British English - copper" will not provide a
direct link to that word in that thread. Oh, it'll spot a few other
h2g2 conversations but not quite the way one might hope. Google
can find threads if you know the topic or general subject line but
not pinpoint specific words within a thread. (Or at least I've never
found the secret way to arrange keywords...)

There had been a few people planning to create an alphabetic
reference guide from the backlog but I never saw them completed.
It is a big thread and impossible to catalog.

I suppose one could copy pages and pages (whatever number 20
postings per page divides into 16720 posts) and then use a Word
program to search for specific terms... but life is short and
getting shorter.

And there was of course another original Brit/Eng thread of approx
6000 posts prior to the Great Vogon Detour (aka Rupert) of 2001.
I actually read all of that thread before joining this Sequel.

smiley - book
~jwf~


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