The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Tag: Mispunctuation

Saturday, 16th January 2016

On the side of a bus I see an advert for rice. It asks, ‘Got enough turkey to last ‘till Easter?’

How can a piece of text that’s been scrutinised for weeks or months by dozens of graduates and is going to be printed in very large font on thousands of posters manage to combine two schoolboy errors in the rendering of a single word?

Till or until. One or the other, not both.


Tuesday, 14th July 2015

I propose that the sincerity of food and drinks manufacturers be tested by looking at the ways in which they market products with regard to what this implies about their other products. For example, if low-fat Hellmann’s mayonnaise is ‘Lighter than Light’, then presumably that makes his full-fat version ‘Heavier than Heavy’; if, on the other hand, the full-fat is ‘Real’, then that makes the low-fat variety ‘Fake’. Light is not the opposite of real. One or the other, Herr Hellmann, not both.

To this end, I would welcome the following appearing on the shelves:

  • Coke Thirty-Nine™ (per cent of today’s sugar)*
  • Really Sugary Pepsi™
  • Heinz Pesticidal Beans™
  • Pointless Waitrose™
  • Tesco Worst™
  • Branston Derivative Chunk™
  • Lurpak Rock-Hard™ (a.k.a. Bread-Renderer™)
  • Duchy Originals Poor and Watery Unnatural Yoghurt™

* The slogan of Coke Zero is, ‘Because You Don’t Know Zero™ ‘Til You’ve Tried It.’ Clearly the marketing managers at the Coca-Cola Company don’t know zero, or they’d know what an apostrophe looks like, and that till and until are separate words.

Sunday, 19th April 2015

First World problem | First-World problem, n.

Pronunciation: /fəːst wəːld ˈprɒbləm/
Etymology: < First World n. and adj. + problem n.

A problem affecting the First World and its inhabitants; spec. a cause of frustration or dissatisfaction regarded as trivial, and arising only as a result of the economic and social privilege, access to technology, etc., associated with the First World, e.g. the question of whether or not to hyphenate a two-word proper noun when using it attributively.

Sunday, 22nd February 2015

I’m receiving more and more emails which, apropos of nothing, refer to a particular set of out-of-context objects and concepts. I set out the OED meanings of these here, in an attempt to find a connection and solve the puzzle:

  • ‘The secret language or jargon used by gipsies, thieves, professional beggars, etc.’
  • A ‘place of torment for the wicked after death’.
  • ‘The inherited instinctive impulses of the individual’.
  • ‘A misfortune, a calamity, a disaster’.
  • ‘A slight structure built for shelter or storage’.
  • ‘The hard outside covering of an animal, a fruit, etc.’
  • ‘A pit dug in the ground to obtain a supply of spring water’.
  • ‘A short or quick movement.’
  • ‘Habitual or customary usage, custom, habit.’

The only thing I can think of is that people are increasingly emailing from their smartphones as opposed to their computers. But how would this explain the explosion of interest in cant, hell, the id, ills, sheds, shells, wells, weves, and wonts?

Wednesday, 14th January 2015

It’s clear that the online world and ‘digital-first’ publications like the Guardian increasingly see copy containing correct punctuation and typographical emphases as being outdated, cluttered-looking onscreen, time-consuming to produce, and in a vague sense elitist. It occurs to me that in the last of these the apostrophe is the worst offender, since one of its two primary uses is to denote possession and in so doing, when inserted before the ess, to hierarchise the many into one.

For example, I’ve complained before about Kings Cross for King’s Cross, but perhaps rather than sloppiness it reflects a democratic wish that the crossroads may belong to no one and that we may all be kings! And at the other end of the spectrum from unpunctuated digi-chic is the greengrocer’s apostrophe, which maybe, compared to the tyranny of the professional punctuationist’s, does no harm. Pear’s 30p a pound

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