Sunday, December 03, 2006


Is it important?

Our youngest daughter is an excellent reader and creative thinker and has the potential to become a great writer, but as yet, has not subscribed to the common belief that punctuation is important. She is very "inner-directed" (her pre-school teacher's words). This is not always a good thing. I've tried reading her stories back to her without punctuation (it's hard to go that long without breathing, you know), to illustrate the possible pitfalls of leaving so much up to the reader. So far, this has not left a lasting impression. *sigh*

To wit, here is a sign I saw yesterday that could have benefitted from the addition of just a little punctuation:


Now, is this place really selling sapphires? And fresh fish? And soul food?

Or, are we missing an apostrophe? Does this place belong to someone named Sapphire?

Should there be a comma between fish and soul food, or not? Is Sapphire selling fresh fish and cooked soul food? Or just soul food with fish in it? The Health Department might like to know.

Should the police be looking into such a place if it's in a neighborhood populated by pawn shops and drug salesmen?


At 6:46 PM, December 03, 2006, Blogger mis_nomer said...

Your daughter could be the next Jose Saramago! :)

(what is soul food for fish anyway? fish have souls? erm. i think i may be reading the sign wrong.)

At 7:19 PM, December 03, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Heh, that's a good point about the punctuation used, or not, by greater minds than mine. As I read Blindness, I reprimanded myself for being so hard on her. ;-)

And I think you're reading the sign just as it's written, if not as intended. ;-)

At 7:31 PM, December 03, 2006, Anonymous Jim said...


That's very funny!

At 10:14 PM, December 03, 2006, Blogger Rach said...

I think that punctuation is a courtesy so that people don't have to spend hours working out what you are trying to say :P.

At 9:40 AM, December 04, 2006, Blogger DarkoV said...

Having experienced the thrill on unpunctuated pronouncements and sentences from kids (my wife's a Montesorri teacher), this phenomenon was explained to me by her thusly.
1) Everything a kid says or writes, up to about the age of 9-10 when they're fianlly wrestled down like a wild mustang, is of equal importance.
2) A child's lung capacity is simply amazing, considering the small size of their bodies.
3) A kid's enthusiasm for expression, especially if they've been tied down to write something, is limitless. Punctuation, for them, is a limiting device and one to be avoided at all costs.
4) The world, to a young lad/lady, is far too interesting to be mulling about. Information/reaction to it demands an endless stream of response that is exhausted only when another kid wants to horn in with their opinion.

so, while I feel for you, Gwynne, this time will, unfortunately, pass.

At 10:41 AM, December 04, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Jim, I think MN is deserving of a "LOL," don't you? ;-)

Rach, agreed, the courtesy is appreciated by those of us unable to comprehend without it (although somehow I managed to get through Saramago, so there's proof it is not all that important). ;-)

Darko, as you might have guessed, our girls were raised under the Montessori (am I spelling that right?) principals (and principles) until 2nd and 3rd grade, respectively. I cannot speak highly enough of the methods used, especially for one gifted "inner-directed" child. I trust she'll find her way in the world somehow, with or without punctuation. ;-)

At 12:25 PM, December 04, 2006, Blogger DarkoV said...

Re. the Sign.
I believe only one punctuation mark was missing.
Namely, Sapphire's.
So, I'm assuimng, the sign was for a restaurant, specifically Sapphire's Fish Soul Food.

I think one would not be going to that restaurant and discussing grammer and punctuation with Sapphire. Rather, Mustard Collard Greens and deep-fried fish would be in your topics. A nte about her punctuation would most probably result in a head bash with aforementioned Fish.
And deservedly so.....

At 1:50 PM, December 04, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Heh. Just for that, I'm going to march right over there today and teach Ms. Sapphire a thing or two 'bout Punc-Tu-A-Shun. And tell her I have some fish souls need feedin.' And I'm feeling the need for a head bashin.' ;-)

At 2:02 PM, December 04, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

And BTW, from the outside of the building, there is no telling what is going on behind closed doors. There are no indications of restaurant activities, like smoke billowing out of stove pipes, or additional signage of any kind, or windows for that matter. And you won't find a website for Sapphires Fish Soul Food either. I've already checked. ;-)

At 8:50 PM, December 05, 2006, Blogger Foo said...

And on the other hand, we have me. I woke up one morning and realized that, because my writing tends toward the overly parenthetical, not only were my sentences overly long, but I also had punctuation sprouting up all over the place. I've since worked to decrease the punctuation surplus by forcing myself to leave out punctuation that doesn't affect meaning or "dramatic interpretation".

Did I mention I'm full of crap?

I guess my point is that it's good to get your daughter to concentrate on getting the the apostrophes (or lack thereof) right. Knowing the difference between possessive and plural is good, but sticking in a comma everywhere that's demanded by a grammar text will make her appear a crap-filled pedant. Trust me. I know.

At 9:13 PM, December 05, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Foo, as for our daughter, I'm looking for any punctuation, as in maybe a period once in awhile? Is that too much to ask? Did I mention she's 16 already and talks back?

Same issue with the sign writer. Just one apostrophe and I would not have made a big deal out of their stupid sign. Really. 8-}

But I have been on the other side of the big red pen when it comes to excessive use of commas. I would not want anyone else to suffer that fate. ;-)

At 7:52 AM, December 06, 2006, Blogger Foo said...

It has just occurred to me, while reading your response to my earlier comment, that your daughter may be suffering from the influence of something you and I never had to deal with.

I know: preposition... end of sentence... BAD Foo.

Anyway. Does your daughter text message? Based on the succinct, sometimes indecipherable communiqu├ęs we periodically receive from Turtle's teenaged niece, I've come to suspect there are English teachers all across the globe absolutely tearing their hair out over spelling and punctuation.

At 9:13 AM, December 06, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

...there are English teachers all across the globe absolutely tearing their hair out over spelling and punctuation...

...and the fact that teens are text messaging while in class! Yes, agreed, all that used to be considered important is now lost on a world of text messengers and IM'ers. Don't even get me started on the topic of cell phones and teens. ;-)

At 10:51 AM, December 06, 2006, Blogger Stephen said...

Wow, that's a good one. I have no clue either. Let me know if you ever stop in and ask what they're doing in there. :)


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