Monday, June 18, 2007

Things I Should Have Learned in School or Did Learn and Forgot

I just got around to reading, or studying, the book "Eats, Shoots, & Leaves". It was a best-seller a few years ago. The good nuns taught me grammar and punctuation well. I was hard to trip up some forty years ago, but I have forgotten many of the rules of punctuation. I thought it was time for a review.
As well as tuning up my punctuation skills, I learned a new word: solidus, meaning forward slash.
I checked the Webster's New College Dictionary for their definition. It says, "1. An ancient Roman coin used until the Byzantine Empire."
"2. A virgule."
A virgule? What is a virgule? Now I had to check that definition in the V's. Sure enough it is defined as "a diagonal mark, (/) used esp. to separate alternatives, as, and/or, to represent the work per."
Did everyone know this but me? I have never heard the word solidus, or perhaps I just don't remember it much like I don't remember when to use that drat semi-colon. Maybe when I finish the book I will know when to use it.
Here is a cute quote from the book's jacket: "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.'
So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death. "
PS. I hope Andy didn't run into any Chinese pandas with poorly punctuated wildlife manuals.

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