A PUNCTUAL EAVESDROPPING

(The following is an opportunity to listen in on grammar where it lives, in the sentences and paragraphs of the English language. Herein you will be privy to the insider’s access as punctuation marks discuss another day on the job. Caution: Please be quiet so as not to frighten the commas or startle the semicolons.)

Comma: Crap. Can’t these people get it straight? What with these run on sentences I can’t get caught up. Don’t they know when to use a period? Back when I was in school they taught you how to construct a sentence and determine who was doing what to whom by the placement of the predicate and the action verb without concern for a lot of fluffy adjectives and dangling participles that had to be diagrammed up at the chalk board while the teacher looked on with that dangerous pointer in her hand and…

Question mark: What?

Period: Hey, comma, don’t bring periods into this. Sure, I’m on call but I don’t even put my pants on until the sentence is completed. There’s a sense of finality. At the end of the day I can see that my work has been finished.

Parenthesis: Socrates, Pericles, Xerxes…Aristophanes, Sophocles,

Oracles…Parentheses. Pretty good company, heh?

Comma: Ego…eeeze. All she does is enclose part of the sentence which might easily have been omitted. It’s not like she’s really making a difference, creating anything…but she’s attractive all right. Just look at those curves.

Period: Mindless. It could be worse. There could be two of her. Then we’re dealing with interpolation independent of the surrounding syntactical structure.

Semicolon: That sounds like a clause for alarm. Get it…clause?

Hyphen: Move out of the way. Move out of the way! I’ve got to get to the end of this line. We’ve got broken words down there. Quite a mess, you know. Move aside, gang way…

Question mark: Where?

Comma: I used to be a hyphen, before I went back to night school. I just couldn’t imagine a lifelong career linking compound words.

Period: Bush league at best.

Comma: Tedious. All that running from one line to the other just to link words that have expressed a desire to remain independent. The language is forever emerging, changing. You savvy?

Semicolon: Yes, I’ve had graduate study…How do you think that top dot got there?

Question mark: How?

Period: I thought it was a typo.

Apostrophe: Cut the proprietary whining. You guys carry far to much baggage but no real weight. I’m the one who substitutes for omitted letters and shows possessive case in nouns. One little mark in the wrong place changes everything.

Comma: Nouns…They are so self-centered, so predicated.

Semicolon: I once knew a verb who could twist herself into an adjective, then back to an adverb, before returning to her original status. Talk about tense! I could tell she was a bit irregular but when I found out she was intransitive I knew it would never work.

Period: Was she copulative?

Question mark: Who?

Semicolon: None of your business. She was in limited contexts, but finite was not in her vocabulary. I don’t know if I was in love or just eager to conjugate.

Dash: Sudden breaks! Sudden breaks? I used to be in demand. Now I’ve got to hustle work. What is this English language coming to anyway? It’s bad enough most of them can’t speak in the proper verb tense and often use the wrong word in speech. It’s downright embarrassing to watch them spell phonetically, never mind mastering another tongue…

Comma: There will always be brackets and principle clauses to take care of these kinds of people. Just be glad you’re a punctuation mark and you’re ruled by very distinct circumstances. These people who use us are still trying to figure out where to put the period…in the case of quotation marks…”

Quotation mark: “Did someone call me?”

Apostrophe: Pompous ass, talking in quotes. Before long he’ll be speaking in italic.

Parentheses: You mean like this?

Quotation mark: I just don’t get the attraction, or the slant as it were.

Exclamation point: Sentence construction at eleven o’clock! All hands on deck!

Question mark: When?

Period: Is that an indirect question? Don’t just stand there: It’s probably one of us that they want at the end of the sentence. Grab a couple of commas and a semicolon and follow me!

FULL STOP

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