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Sep 26 2009

Yay and boo

Punctuation pain

From the perspective of the cinquagenarian spinster aunt-on-the-go (a dying breed, literally), this screen grab (from the iTunes store comments section; the commenter is bitter because s/he is not getting something for nothing in an iPhone internet radio application) illustrates practically everything that is both right and wrong with the Internet and the world. iPhones: yay! Capitalism: boo! Internet radio: yay! Whiny iPhone user entitlement: boo!

Etc.

But damn (and certainly you’ll agree one hundred and ten percent); an ellipsis — a fucking five-dotter — followed by an exclamation point? It can but harbinge what we all knew was coming: the evolution of H. sapiens into a non-cerebral, plant-like species. Only an insouciant stalk of kelp could type those characters and not feel obligated to commit sepukku afterward.

Update: I mean seppuku. Dorkwad’s Law: any blog post critiquing the slackening standards of today’s written English, even when the written English is Japanese, must contain an error.

43 comments

  1. goblinbee

    To say nothing of the four-dotter at the beginning.

    I do have a question about “yay.” I was raised spelling it “yea” (rhymes with “hay”). But it seems people then get it confused with “yeah” (rhymes with nothing). Is this why some have switched to “yay?” Or is it regional?

    I have been wondering this for a long, long time.

  2. Dr. Righteous

    “Only an insouciant stalk of kelp could type those characters and not feel obligated to commit sepukku afterward.”

    Stay for the prose, indeed.

  3. Orange

    Psst: It’s seppuku. A Twitterer I follow just tweeted that she was undergoing slow-motion seppuku at the hands (so to speak) of her jeans waistband.

    Goblinbee, I use “yea” for the affirmative vote (the yeas and nays) and “yay” for “hooray.” And I glower when people use “yah” in place of “yeah.” Plus, you know how Charles Schulz used “bleah” in “Peanuts”? I had some college friends who pronounced that “blee” instead of rhyming it with “yeah.”

    The finer grades of kelp would’ve written “Call me cheap but…..that’s just messed up…..!” What the hell is the prefatory mega-ellipsis all about?

  4. incognotter

    I refuse to blame punctuation because patriarchy blaming takes up enough of my time.

  5. Pinko Punko

    Isn’t insouciant giving to much credit to the kelp? Perhaps weedily or kudzuesque would work for the aggressive nature of the ellipses. I am also surprised that happy, floaty kelp gets the stick when there are more nefarious vegetables in the IBTP-verse, such as frisée.

  6. Notorious Ph.D.

    Perhaps they’re using the ellipses like some people use quotation marks: for emphasis.

    No, I guess that’s really not any better, is it?

  7. wiggles

    Reading YouTube comments has apparently eroded my standards to the point where I’m just impressed that this person used an apostrophe correctly.

  8. BMS

    Jill, I’ve never understood – why the ellipsis hate?

    Clearly they are used incorrectly in your example, but why in general are you against them?

  9. Comrade PhysioProf

    Ellipses have a single motherfucking meaning as a punctuation mark, and indicating a pause in speech or thought–which is what most Internet douchecornets use them for–ain’t it.

    Jill, I hope you enjoyed National Punctuation Day. I got fucking plastered to celebrate.

    http://www.nationalpunctuationday.com/

  10. Julie

    Yay for calling out ellipsis abuse! It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.

  11. BMS

    I fucking know that. That isn’t what I fucking asked.

  12. BMS

    And they don’t have a single meaning, only indicating a pause.

    They also indicate a deleted portion of quoted text, as in, “I got [. . .] plastered to celebrate.”

    Besides, (1) I wasn’t asking you, and (2) I surely do not need a fucking grammar lesson from you.

    Thanks just the same anyway.

  13. Gayle

    It’s true. BMS did not ask Jill why she dislikes ellipses when incorrectly used. Answering said question by explaining how the ellipsis is incorrectly used is not fucking helpful.

    This swearing thing is contagious.

  14. Pinko Punko

    I think when you use them as a pause in speech and not to indicate the elision/omission of speech, this is an acquired usage and not the intended, and must be stomped under the bootheel of righteous editation.

  15. Comrade PhysioProf

    Answering said question by explaining how the ellipsis is incorrectly used is not fucking helpful.

    Answering said question by explaining that the ellipsis is chronically misused was totally fucking helpful.

  16. yttik

    Bad news for the anti-ellipsis crowd. I just read this in an article:

    “Today, extended ellipsis of seven, ten, or even dozens of periods have become common constructions in internet chat rooms and text messages.”

  17. Molly

    Golinbee, whenever I see “yea” I think of “yea, verily” in the biblical usage (which also rhymes with hay); Orange’s usage is also correct, as always. I, too, use yay as a synonym of hooray. And I get irritated when people write yeah or yea (or, worst, ya) when they mean yay (maybe I am younger than you are? I’m 38), but not as irritated as when they scatter random numbers of periods or strings of ellipses through their prose, or write lol at something that is not even funny enough to elicit a smirk.

  18. Pinko Punko

    yttik,

    That is totally hilarious. It reminds me of reading an LA Times article on LOLCats. Humorous pictures of cats with amusingly misspelled captions, for the love of Pete!

  19. Ciccina

    @ goblinbee

    “yeah” (rhymes with nothing).

    Nope. “Yeah” rhymes with “hair” – both the one and two syllable options (yay-ah, hay-yah) – are acceptable if you’re from the five boroughs.

    Check out John Travolta’s pronunciation of “hair” in Welcome Back, Kotter and in the dinner table scene in Saturday Night Fever (“you know, I work a long time on my hayah, and you go and hit it. You hit my hayah”). Classic Travolta in his pre- remedial-elocution period.

  20. kdingani

    cinquagenarian=quinquagenarian? Or does it mean something else?

    also, “dying breed…literally?” I’m hoping this is just birthday ennui, and wising you the best Jill.

  21. Aunty Christ

    It’s really unfortunate that I feel this way, but I’m happily surprised that the offending commenter was able to spell all the words in a sentence correctly. That’s quite an achievement.

  22. magriff

    Pinko Punko: I too, was completely horrified to learn that Internet verbiage had mutated language into something I can’t put White Guy Rules on! …….. !!!! ……….

  23. magriff

    So much so that I said I was and had done something, that I later can’t do something about. So Unladylike!!!! (……..) ~~~ (…..)

  24. speedbudget

    Goblin: “Yeah” is another word for “yes” and has a flat vowel sound.
    “Yea” is used in oral voting and has a long vowel sound. “Yay” only shows up in slang dictionaries. It is really an expletive, I imagine, only being uttered in moments of sheer enthusiasm. Like when your chocolate cake with chocolate icing magically appears.

  25. Vera

    “Yay” is in the Oxford American Dictionary. If you’re on a Mac, you can view the definition by highlighting the word “yay” anywhere on this page, and then Control-clicking it. Dictionary opens up a little tiny panel bearing a definition. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, “yay” is related to both “yea” and “yeah,” and came into use in the 1960s (it figures!).

  26. Gayle

    “Answering said question by explaining that the ellipsis is chronically misused was totally fucking helpful.”

    You answered a question that wasn’t asked.

    You pulled another question out of your own ass so you could answer it and show us all how important and intellectual you are. Except things didn’t work out that way.

    Okay, it was fucking helpful in that your behavior here reveals you have a tendency toward pedantic, bullying behavior. You’re also a dude who thinks throwing terms like motherfucker around a feminist blog makes you look hip and cool. Wrong again!

  27. Rumblelizard

    Wait, kelp can type?

  28. yttik

    I don’t know exactly why Jill doesn’t like an ellipsis, but someone else I know pointed out that one way to use them is in a passive/aggressive attempt to insult or hint at something without actually having to commit to using real words. Like, “That dress looks really….vibrant on you.” It implies that you may have really meant something else entirely. It’s like a pregnant pause in everyday speech, something left unsaid but hinted at.

    I enjoy an ellipsis now and then, but I imagine from a feminist perspective, they’re actually evidence that you can’t say what you mean and mean what you say. Obviously if I use one in this context then I’m not speaking plainly and courageously, I’m trying to hint at something without rocking the boat. We want more feminist boat rocking in this world, so try to fill in those dots!

  29. Kwailin

    Well said, yttik!

  30. Jodie

    I loves me some ellipses, mostly because I have to pause a lot to think, and I write like I think. But that’s OK; I can use other forms of punctuation just for Jill. Em dashes work pretty well in place of ellipses — see?

  31. KH

    I’m probably an outlier here, but I vastly prefer ellipses to iPhones.

  32. Nora

    I hate to get involved in this sort of online argument, but according to my job description I’m a motherfucking editor. I occasionally edit the work of physiology professors.

    The ellipsis is properly used only to indicate elided text. It is also used to indicate pauses in speech, much as quotation marks are used to indicate “emphasis.” Which is to say that the ellipsis is frequently used solely to annoy editors and spinster aunts.

    If you wish to indicate a pause in speech, try a new paragraph.

    It works great.

    But what if I want to indicate a pause in the middle of a sentence?you ask.

    Use an em dash* — it works great!

    *Two hyphens are usually used to distinguish the em dash from the en dash, but now we are talking typographic arcana, which is beyond the scope of this here chat.

    The Chicago Manual of Style used to insist that the ellipsis must be enclosed in square brackets, thus: [...]. Or like this: [... .] if the elided material includes the end of a sentence. Even the Chicago Manual of style doesn’t mandate the brackets any more, but it doesn’t forbid them.

  33. Nora

    Of course it is a rule on the internets that any post addressing the failings of anyone else’s grammar or spelling must contain a minimum of one error. My previous comment contains at least two. Call me an overachiever.

  34. K

    Orange, you had college friends who read Peanuts out loud?

  35. vinoveritas

    M.F. Ellipses is going to be my new rap name.

  36. Comrade PhysioProf

    The ellipsis is properly used only to indicate elided text. It is also used to indicate pauses in speech, much as quotation marks are used to indicate “emphasis.” Which is to say that the ellipsis is frequently used solely to annoy editors and spinster aunts.

    This is exactly what I said in the first place, although not as editorially.

  37. Pinko Punko

    PP, you appeared to emphasize the pausing as the single role for the mark, but not the elision. Pausing is a secondary use, while elision used to be the primary role.

    BLAMMO!

  38. Comrade PhysioProf

    PP, you appeared to emphasize the pausing as the single role for the mark, but not the elision.

    Read what I wrote more carefully, and you will see that you’ve got this completely backwards. I emphasized that ellipses have a single accepted role, and pausing is *not* it.

    KAPOW!

  39. Jill

    “Psst: It’s seppuku.”

    I have amended the post to reflect this correction. It is a joy to have such a vigilant blametariat copy-editing me for free.

  40. Orange

    Jill, it is my gift to the cause of feminism, the free application of the editorial eye. If only I could concoct a righteous rationale for the rampant mental editing of restaurant menus–then I could put in an application for sainthood somewhere.

  41. Jodie

    Nora, I sometimes miss the days when I worked with typographic arcana, and I still feel a need to kern capital Ts to lowercase vowels. Sigh.

  42. Pinko Punko

    You got me with the negative at the end! I couldn’t hold on until the very end, I admit. I figured it would be a bunch of superfluous F-bombs.

    Self BLAMMO!

  43. Carolyn in Baltimore

    There loosers…..!

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