An ode to the comma.
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- In poetry, a comma is a musical notation, a half-note of silence. Thanks.Apr 11, 2013
- A half-note of silence - what an evocative image, Marj! Periods seem so definite and final. A comma looks like it's still on its way to somewhere.Apr 11, 2013
- I agree, Meg. The period is a full note of music in poetry. The unheard sound. The palpable black silence.Apr 11, 2013
- When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I used to go and sit on my mum's bed while she was watching TV, and we'd talk about stuff. We talked about things I'd recently come across, like an awesome book describing boolean logic, poetry that rhymed compared to poetry that doesn't, and that weird David Bowie film that was on that I didn't understand (she didn't either - have you ever seen The Man Who Fell to Earth?).
We talked a lot about language, and speech, and that sort of thing. I bought a book about grammar once, we had a two hour chat about tautology. I love my mum. (Dad too, but let's not make this comment too long.)
Commas came up more than once. I didn't realise it at the time, we were just chatting. Wasn't old enough to start classifying conversations. But, yeah, they were an interesting element of written language.
A few years later, we're talking on the phone. "I bought a book!" she says. "I think you might like it".
I'm going to have to quote this bit directly, without punctuation; you'll have to fill in that bit yourself (or not):
"It's called eats shoots and leaves"
If you haven't heard the joke before, "eats shoots and leaves" is the punchline to a joke that plays on words, specifically what happens if you leave a comma out of a sentence. It's also a great book, if you like that kind of thing.
The thing that struck me, though, is that my mum remembered talking to me about commas, sitting on her bed all that time ago, and picked up the conversation twenty years later, and it was like we'd never finished talking. It was nice.
So, thanks, commas. You're awesome for all sorts of reasons.Apr 12, 2013
- That comment was more like a blog post. Apologies for that. Possibly, might, probably, actually put it up as a proper blog post.
OK, done: http://pgl.yoyo.org/bits/poetry/commas/237:2013-04-12/ (included the joke as well, as I remember it).Apr 12, 2013
- Thanks for the lovely comment, Peter, and for the post. Am in Galway at the moment, and struggling to type this on a friend's phone.Apr 13, 2013