Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Comedy Of Commas

The Importance of Punctuation in English

The Importance of Punctuation: Misplaced commas and other forms of punctuation in the English language is often an embarrassment and create a lot of confusion, misunderstanding and even occasional financial irregularities, as would be evident from the following illustrations:

1. It is said that an ancient Greek, consulting the Oracle of Delphi as to whether he should go a-warring, was told :

“Thou shalt go thou shalt return
Never by war shalt thou perish”

Optimistically adding commas after ‘go’ and ‘return’, The Greek took up arms, and was promptly killed in the war. He should have put the second comma after ‘never’.

2. A riddle runs like this :

Every lady in the land
Has twenty nails on each hand
Five and twenty on hands and feet
This is true, without deceit.

The sense is sometimes confused by placing a comma at the end of the second line. If instead you put commas after ‘nails’ and ‘five’, the verse merely states the obvious.

3. Punctuate the following sentence so that it makes sense :

That that is is not that that is not that that is not is not that that it is not that it it is.

Answer: That that is, is not that that is not; that that is not, is not that that is. Is not that? It is.

4. In a co-educational high school, the following sentence was given to punctuate :

‘Woman without her man is imperfect’

The boys wrote ‘Woman, without her man, is imperfect’
The girls wrote ‘‘Woman! Without her, man is imperfect’

5. In the year 1890, a Congressional clerk in America was supposed to write “All foreign fruit-plants are free from duty” in transcribing a recently passed in the Congress; but while typing he changed the hyphen to a comma and wrote “All foreign fruit, plants are free from duty”. Before the Congress could correct his error with a new law, the Government lost over 2 million dollars in taxes.

6. A District Attorney in America introduced an unpunctuated confession taken down by a Police Officer that said:

“Morgan said that he never robbed but twice said it was Crawford”

The prosecution contended that this should have been punctuated as “Morgan said he never robbed but twice. Said it was Crawford”. The defence said the sentence should read “Morgan said he never robbed; but twice said it was Crawford”. The last introduced a reasonable doubt and the accused was set free.

7. A woman whose husband had joined the Navy gave the Pastor of the Church, a note just as he was mounting the pulpit one Sunday morning. The note said “John Anderson, having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety.”
The Minister in haste pulled out the note from his pocket and read aloud “John Anderson, having gone to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety”.

B.M.N. Murthy


ARTICLE NO. 576--The Importance of Punctuation in English
Friday, June 18, 2010 9:35 PM


At January 30, 2015 at 4:05 AM , Blogger Srinivas Angara said...

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