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· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
January 18, 2004
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· My Students Find "Interesting" Punctuations ·
Typically, after introducing my students to the two chief means of grasping punctuation ("regulatory" and "syntactical" I call them), I turn everyone loose diligently looking for "interesting" punctuations. My students take to the task well, finding in what they have first read for pleasure larger lessons in compositional technique.
For fun I have thought to share two such finds. Each comes from a now-dated class textbook handy for reference, Lynn Bloom and Edward White's Inquiry: A Cross-Curricular Reader. You, too, might find my students' punctuations "interesting."
Begging what I call "regulatory" questions, the first comes from Mike Rose's short essay, "'I Just Wanna Be Average'":
You can imagine my students' response. They like, of course, Rose's hyphenated boredom ("blah-blah-blah"), his paused, adjectival aside ("with studied, minimal effect"), his one solecism ("wanna"), and, mostly, his equivocal end-punctuation on "Average?!" "But is that right?" they ask, and I reply: "But of course! Was Rose here following some stuffy, single-minded grammarian's 'pointing rule'?"
My students take even more, however, to John Updike's "syntactical" stretch in his fine autobiographical essay, "At War with my Skin":
You can imagine my students' take. After traversing Updike's semicolonized lead sentence ("Svc; svc" is his pattern), they "gasp" inquisitively at a writer's deft style dashing their hopes for some subject-verb closure in his longer second sentence ("S — svc; svc — vc, c, c, c"). "Can Updike do that?" they ask, amused by his lengthy, comma-filled sentence ending. "Well, he did, didn't he? It's a stretch," I say, "but — hey! — if your old skin is rather inelastic, why not limber up your syntax? For Updike it's verbal gymnastics."
Students of course get my point, as they get, too, Victor Borge's in a still more stylish take on punctuation, happily recorded (even if without his accompanying story) partially online. Do enjoy.Permalink
Thanks for a Friday afternoon "period," Styles. Victor Borge — what fun!
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