Monday, December 08, 2008

bad grammar makes me [sic]

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit.

The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. 'Well, I'm a panda', he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

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I heart Lynn Truss.

For those of you (sad, sad souls) who may not be aware. The above joke inspired the title for Lynn's (yes, I call her Lynn) bestselling book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. A masterpiece which single-handedly saved the field of editing from becoming the most fun-sucking, clod-hopping, "every party has a pooper that's why we invited you" minor on BYU campus (that honor goes to Driver Safety Education).

Not only does the book give meaning and purpose to the quest to preserve language, but it's funny.

I mean, she dedicates the book "to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution" for crying out loud. And it only gets better from there.

Which is why when Annie (yay, Annie) told me she was coming to do a forum I was quite excited. And definitely not let down. I expected her to be good, but I was surprise at how funny she was. Yes, I know I just said her book was funny, but once you (sad, sad souls) get past the fact that it's a book on punctuation, British authors have had a long history of humorous prose (hello! Ever heard of Shakespeare? Austen? Hyacinth Bucket?). They have, however not exactly been known for their humorous speeches (British speakers, n. see stiff upper lip, undemonstrative, milquetoast).

But just as publishing houses declared her a "completely implausible success," here comes Lynn, boldly going where no British speaker has gone before (i.e. starting her speech by saying "Hello. I'm Johnny Cash"-- most favor channeling Mick Jagger, David Beckham, or Mr. Bean). Some highlights:
  • Some people accuse me of complete intolerance, and that's not quite true. For example: When I see a sign that says "Children Drive Slowly," I think, "That's a relief." Or a sign that says "Residents Refuse to Go in Bins," I'm on their side.

  • However, when I go to the grocery and see a carton of Orange Juice that's "Fresh," I don't think the orange juice is "extra fresh," or "special fresh," if anything I'm inclined to think it's a bit "dodgy."

  • Another sign in front of a high school that has a Scot as its mascot reads: We are the Scots who could be prouder. Obviously they've got some spirit issues.

  • Or a newspaper account of a trial that stated: the defendant said his barrister had a history of drug use. Are they sure the right person is on trial?

  • Once, when I took a taxi to the British Museum where I was giving a lecture, the driver asked me what I was speaking about and I said, "Punctuation," and he replied, "well I better get you there on time then!"

And my all-time favorite: Slow children crossing become slow men at work.

Did I mention I heart Lynn Truss?

5 comments:

Macie said...

Oh man, that is funny. I especially like the last one about the taxi driver. Ha ha!

Meridith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meridith said...

I heart Lynn Truss as well. :D She sounds awesome.

FruGal said...

If you want a bit of humerous prose *and* an English speaker who is both amusing and brilliant, you ought to check out Stephen Fry. He rocks.

FruGal said...

Shit, I mean 'humorous'. Fail!