May 13, 2005

Do: you think?

I'm working my way through Lynne Truss's Eats, shoots & leaves, agreeing with her on nearly everything. Indeed, there are a few rules she's set out that I didn't know or wouldn't have thought of.

She and I had our first little quarrel just now over the use of the colon. In addition to its venerable uses at introducing specific things ("three things: bread, milk, and cheese") and sometimes tightly, causally related clauses ("we went to the midnight show: we'd been itching to see it for weeks"---though even this usage seems a bit iffy to me), Truss claims that there are other valid uses:

  • "when there is probably more to the initial statement than has met the eye", e.g. "You can do it: and you will do it." (Ugh.)
  • "as a kind of fulcrum between two antithetical or oppositional statements", e.g. "Man proposes: God disposes." (Double ugh.)
I don't even think this one can be chalked up to the oceanic divide; even among British writers, I can't recall running across either of these in any significant number. I'd think I would, too, as they are so jarring.

However, having argued on page 119, we made up again on page 120. In demonstrating another use of the colon, she made one of the finest literary references ever:

Gandhi II: The Mahatma Strikes Back
Recognise it? It's from UHF; Lynne Truss is a Weird Al fan!

"The 'A' is for content, the 'minus' is for not typing it. Don't ever do this to my eyes again." --Professor Ronald Brady, Philosophy, Ramapo State College

Posted by blahedo at 8:48am on 13 May 2005
Green Onions -> Also known as spring onions, these are onions or shallots too immature to have bulbs or Welsh onions that never get bulbs. Scallions -> Immature onions without the bulb or Shallots used as green onions. Shallots -> A medium sized allium with a milder flavor than regular onions. Sometimes picked young to use as green onions. Posted by lee at 5:17pm on 13 May 2005
I agree with you on those uses of the colon; they are just atrocious. Posted by Kelly at 5:31pm on 13 May 2005
I'm surprised you're liking Truss's book. Language Hat's post on Louis Menand's review was enough to scare me away. She sounds like a prescriptivist nut who's not even very good at writing like a prescriptivist. Posted by Chris at 6:26pm on 14 May 2005
I'm still only a third or so of the way through, so we'll see. I think I know why I disagree with that assessment, but I'll post about it when I finish the book. Posted by blahedo at 3:17am on 15 May 2005
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