Sunday, February 26, 2006

English grammar

I was pruning my "bookmarks" today and in the process I came across normblog which I haven't checked in some time. He had a piece, as follows:

Otherwise engaged

There won't be much to read here today because I'm what you might call 'busy'.
That's one way of writing that sentence. Here's another:
There won't be much to read here today because I'm what you might call 'busy.'
See the difference? In the second version the full stop is inside the final inverted comma, rather than outside it. And to me it just doesn't look logical: the full stop concludes the whole sentence, not the just the word 'busy' in scare-quotes, so it - the full stop - should come at the end. It would be different if the thing were this:
She pondered the message he had written. 'I can't blog much today because I'm busy with other things.' She understood that he was busy.
Here the full stop after 'other things' is part of reported speech, and so should go, with all the rest, inside the inverted commas. Anyway, what do I know? Somebody who does know - about the divergent conventions on this matter - may be able to enlighten me. But what I'm saying is that it puzzles me when I see (as in books published in the US) the likes of...
There won't be much to read here today because I'm what you might call 'busy.'
What I'm also saying is that there won't be much to read here today because I'm busy with other things.

Well; sez I after reading it and my mind, at least what's left of it, starts to churn and I had to tell old Norm and this is what I sent:

Re subject piece, I couldn't help it but I must query the use of "full stop." I always used the term "Period." When I see the words "full stop," I immediately think that there perforce must be a "half stop" or perhaps a "quarter stop" or an "almost full stop." You can imagine my quandary. My mind wanders off and I delight in conceptualizing the family of stops; for instance "whistle stops" the "stops" one pulls all out, how about "truck stop" and of course "non stop." Now that last one is a doozie because now you are drifting off into the realm of Zen, if you get my drift, I love the pun, don't you? See what you have caused now? Little did you know, Sigh. "Bus stops," "F-stops," "one stop," "tab stops," "door stops," "traffic stops," "sudden stops," "flag stops," "glottal stops," and on and on, you get the idea. It's hard to realize that there are so many "stops" and I was surprised to find that when one "googles" "stops," one finds 8,750,000 hits. This subject could turn into a lifetime research paper, imagine looking at all those references!
I must needs stop this rambling and get on with life before "stops" takes on a life of it's own and I become a recluse in a Kafkaesque room full of "stops." Hmmmm, a thought just struck me. What about colons? Never mind........ I'm outta here!

Norm responded with chuckles but he missed the essence of my retort. Just count the quotation marks, I was trying not to make it too obvious.


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