I’m probably the last person in the universe to read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss, who has made it her personal mission, armed with a large, black felt-tip, to correct misplaced apostrophes the English-speaking world over. On the off chance that other poor Eats Shoots & Leaves-less souls continue to fumble blindly through this bewildering vale of cruel grammar and lexical ambiguity, here are some excerpts to cajole you into checking this book out of the city’s senior library.
“Woodrow Wilson said the hyphen was ‘the most un-American thing in the world'”
“Thurber was asked by a correspondent: “Why did you have a comma in the sentence, ‘After dinner, the men went into the living-room’?” And his answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. “This particular comma,” Thurber explained, “was Ross’s way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.”
“When you by nature subscribe to the view that everyone except yourself is a berk or a wanker, it is hard to bond with anybody in any rational common cause.”
Nicholson Baker [Who will be at the Mercantile, Tues. May 3]once had occasion to write “stet hyphen” (let the hyphen stand) so many times in the margin that, in the end, he abbreviated it to “SH”. One of his much-used hyphenations, by the way, was apparently the compound “pleasure-nubbins”.
“Yet there will always be a problem about getting rid of the hyphen: if it’s not extra-marital sex (with a hyphen), it is perhaps extra marital sex, which is quite a different bunch of coconuts.”