Sunday, April 1, 2012

This King's English


These days my writing feels a bit bipolar. There is the American me who writes emails to friends and family and talks about organizing and favorite colors and theater. Then there is the slowly-acclimating-to-Australia me who edits books and writes media releases and talks about organising and favourite colours and theatre. Notice the subtle differences there?

There are no moms here. Nor are there centers or curbs. Instead, we have mums and centres and kerbs. A 'Z' is not pronounced zee, but rather zed. I have not learned these differences. I have learnt them.

I have also recently discovered that those punctuation rules that were drilled into my brain in school seem to be a bit topsy turvy here. Take the following sentences for example.

American me would write:
"It's a perfect day for a picnic," said Drew.

Mandy nodded, "Let's pack a picnic basket and walk to the lake."


Australian me would write:  
"It's a perfect day for a picnic", said Drew. 
Mandy nodded, "Let's pack a picnic basket and walk to the lake".

Eeeh!  Punctuation outside of quotation marks! A part of me cringes whenever I see that.

In honor (honour?) of my current preoccupation with all things spelling and punctuating, I thought I'd leave you with a few editing gems.
  1. The MLA Handbook now has an official way to cite a tweet.  Lots of people are already having fun with this idea and my favorite (favourite) example is this one.
  2. Now that we're going digital with books, will they be in a constant state of editing? I'm sure some authors hope so! An edition of the current bestseller 50 Shades of Grey apparently refers to a character as a "bacon in the night." Errr, that's probably being fixed to 'beacon' as we speak.
  3. Did you know that September 24th is National Punctuation Day?
  4. Misprints happen. Even in the Bible. A 1631 edition famously notes in the Ten Commandments that "Thou shalt commit adultery." Referred to as the Wicked Bible, almost all of the copies were confiscated and burned. A few, however, remain in the hands of collectors and venerable institutions such as the New York Public Library and the British Library.
  5. In the days of telegrams, people used to rely on code books to reduce phrases to single words. Here are a few good ones from the Anglo-American Telegraphic Code, published in 1891: Babylonite (Please provide bail immediately), Titmouse (I [we] accept with pleasure your invitation for the theater tomorrow evening), Mahogany (Malaria prevails extensively), Enringed (the news causes great excitement).

5 comments:

  1. Very interesting! I like spelling things theatre and centre I think it looks nicer haha, but I can't say the same for the punctuation outside of quotation marks!

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  2. I'm always learning something new here, Mandy. You are a treasure of information. The wicked bible is fascinating. And the punctuation outside the sentence would drive me bonkers. And, here's a side of random, I was just this minute introduced to a new coworker who will sit beside me and she just moved here from Melbourne. Now I know to say zed instead.

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  3. Fantastic! Naturally, I'm in love with this whole post. The quote at the top, the links, the musings--love it all!

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  4. Logically, I think it makes more sense to have punctuation outside of quotation marks. But. I am a rule follower, and the rules say the punctuation goes on the inside gosh darn it! :) (At least our American rules, anyway.)

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  5. I cringe too- but good to know that that is the right way to do things over there. Makes me think about how arbitrary punctuation laws are in general. Who is to say that we need to put the period right after the final word? I say let's start a revolution! Amen .

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