Thursday, May 21, 2009

Inappropriate punctuation

Among my crazy co-worker's nest of mad idiosyncracies, there is a real stand-out that I actually find charming. She drops malapropisms, wrong homonyms, and stunningly eccentric grammar and spelling with jaw-dropping frequency. When I joined the department, I had to learn to control my reactions to these sincerely meant but bizarre flourishes. I still giggle when she types "that's the jest of it" and wince when she cheers, "right arm!" But I feel that I am now laughing with her, not at her, at least in terms of emotional alignment.

She also likes the aphorisms of the "blue-collar comedy" kings and similar homily manufacturers, from the inscrutable "it is what it is" to the mind-boggling "it's so God" to the merely lame "if it ain't one thing, it's your mother." I grit my teeth and bear her admonitions to "git 'er done" and I try not to flinch when she signs her business letters "In His Grip." Most of our clients can deal with it, and many of the ones who would be sensitive to grammar are reassured by her evangelism. The Central Coast is like that.

The co-worker-isms that still manage to annoy me are relatively few. Among them is the very most frequent of her sins of punctuation: the inappropriately used quotation marks.

Quotation marks mean emphasis, for my co-worker. For me, their uses are twofold: firstly, to set aside the words of another, and secondly, to indicate skepticism about the words set aside in quotes. I don't think that second use is strictly cricket, but I continue to do it, air-quotes style. It collides spectacularly with her usage.

She will type: URGENT - please "rush!"

Or: please provide special consideration for this "very important" client!

Of course, when I interpret these remarks ironically, it completely inverts her meaning.

This site delights me, because it chronicles even more dramatic uses. Enjoy.

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