Wake Up Man!

Okay, people – look at the title of this post. If you’re a stickler like me, you’ll see what’s wrong with it immediately. This sentence appeared in a NescafĂ© advertisement that was hung on numerous billboards around my area a few years ago. My mother, who taught me all I know about the proper use of English, and I sighed loudly each and every time we passed one of these advertisements. I know I make occasional grammatical mistakes. I know I make more than a few mistakes regarding the proper use of punctuation marks – but then again, I believe many people ignore the finer print of the rules of punctuation and that this is okay for most writers.

Then again, there is a limit. For those who haven’t realized it, the mistake in the title is the lack of a comma between the phrase “wake up” and the person it’s addressing: “man.” This mistake, to any English sticklers, or sticklers-in-training like me, is glaring.

Here’s another one. Remember that movie with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant? The title is this: Two Weeks Notice. This is another example where the mistake is glaringly obnoxious – two weeks notice doesn’t mean anything! It SHOULD be Two Weeks Notice – notice that little apostrophe there? Quite important, in terms of meaning.

I love language and I adore words – I’ve said as much before. I’m willing to accept proofreading slipups in books or mistakes caused by simply not knowing the language. I do NOT, however, have to accept mistakes made knowingly and purposefully in order to make a poster look less “cluttered” or “complicated.” How can we strive to educate the masses if we’re willing to drop punctuation marks to make things easier? How is this okay?!

Emily Dickinson

Ever since I read a silly little-girl book that had an explanation about who Emily Dickinson was, I’ve liked her. I only read a few of her poems back then, but I loved the idea of her. Not only was her name beautiful, but she had a certain strange charm about her – a recluse, misunderstood, hated having people look at her, wrote all the time… She was an appealing mystery.
When I went on my college-trip, I had the great pleasure of taking a class at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The class I chose was a class about Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The poem we studied was this, number 202:

“Faith” is a fine invention

For Gentlemen who see!

But Microscopes are prudent

In an Emergency!

The amount of discussion and conversation that went into the quotation marks around the first word, faith, was astounding. We spent an hour, a whole hour, on the meanings that can be derived from that. Perhaps she meant faith as a concept, perhaps she meant to be ironic or sarcastic about the meaning of faith, perhaps she simply wanted to make sure it was clear she meant the word faith as its own thing. Emily Dickinson usually has underlined words in her poems, odd capitalisation in the middle of sentences, strange and mysterious punctuation – all these things are great for beginning discussions in class.

Ms. M gave me a complete set of Emily Dickinson’s poems as a gift after I raved about that class. Her poems are beautiful. I consider myself now a fan.