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Saturday, 24 December 2011

The woman who wrote about pandas

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

Christmas Eve

Yes, I'm sure that Ms Truss' book did well enough, but, with 'Pandamania' upon us*, what if she'd waited...! (Perhaps those led astray by the cover may still be interested.)

But why would anyone punctuate (think of punctuating?!) a sentence about pandas eating shoots - which we now know are so costly (a bit like buying a chinchilla, and then finding that the only thing that it will eat costs as much as (maybe a cheap) caviar!) - by putting a comma slap bang in the middle of They eat shoots and leaves, or whatever exactly it was**?

Really, one would have to subscribe to the 'theory of punctuation' that says:

(1) Never use the semi-colon - no one else does, and no one understands where it belongs, which may be cause and effect, or vice versa (if not a symbiotic feedback-loop);

(2) The colon is good (as above) once in a while, just to bring you up short, saying 'Something important (probably) follows!';

(3) NB Ignore the semi-colons in this list, but, for advanced students, that's the only way to employ them. If still tempted, stick in a dash instead (much safer!);

(4) Blather on until you've had enough with that sentence. Then, at least, a full-stop, if not, which is worth considering, a new paragraph;

(5) Finally, just to show who's boss, stick a comma in from time to time to impress - if they are in the wrong place (wherever that is), no one will know, and they are as likely to think that you've done something clever that they don't understand as stuck it where it doesn't fit;

(6) If needing to talk about more than one comma, comma's or commas are both fine***.

Not very convincing, but maybe that's Modern English. (About as tenuous as turning, by mistake, the description You wiggle! into the imperative You, wiggle!?)

* Or, if you prefer, Pandamonium...

** Ah, yes! It was some alleged dictionary or encyclopaedia, saying
The panda eats, shoots and leaves.

It could just as easily have said The panda, eats shoots and, leaves, only no 'humorous' story about it dining in a restaurant would ensue, just apoplexy.

*** No one understands the apostrophe (or plurals) any longer, so you can do what you like:

Potato's (meaning 'Potatoes');

Paninis (pluralizing an already plural word);

Premia or stadia (when adding an 's' to 'premium' / 'stadium' is much more natural, as these words are not Latin, but naturalized English) -

Whatever you like, dear student! (Sorry, that should be
Whatever, you like, dear student!, or even Whatever you, like dear student!.)

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