Monday, April 16, 2012

pivotal punctuation. for lack of a nail.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horse shoe


JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) is being sued by a trader who says he accepted a contract from the investment bank because a typographical error made him believe he would be paid 10 times what was actually offered.
Kai Herbert, a Switzerland-based currency trader, is suing JPMorgan for about 580,000 pounds ($920,000), his lawyers said at a trial in London this week. The original contract said Herbert’s annual pay would be 24 million rand ($3.1 million). JPMorgan blamed the mistake on a typographical error and said the figure should have been 2.4 million rand, according to court documents.

Guns N’ Commas

When the D.C. Circuit struck down the District’s gun-ban law under the Second Amendment, America’s usage mavens got busy.

According to Judge Laurence Silberman, because the Amendment’s second comma divides the Amendment in two, the first half is just throat-clearing verbiage. What remains—the second half—reflects the “right of the people,” which Silberman deems to be an individual right:1

Canada’s Million-Dollar Comma

In a recent Canadian contract dispute over stringing utility poles, the stringer—Aliant Inc.—wanted out of the deal after the price of pole stringing skyrocketed. Under the contract, the stringer first had to give a year’s notice—but could it give notice before the contract’s first term ended?

More than $2 million Canadian were at stake. And you guessed it, the case turned on a single comma.

According to Aliant, the following provision gave either party the right to terminate at any time as long as it first provided a year’s notice:

This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

The Explosive Alabaman Comma

When Alabama reprinted its state code several years ago, an editor added a serial comma to the state’s definition of “gasoline.” This seemingly innocent gesture sparked yet another million-dollar dispute.

Consider the reprint, in which I’ve highlighted the new comma:

Definition of Gasoline. Gasoline, naphtha, and other liquid motor fuels or any device or substitute therefor commonly used in internal combustion engines . . .
A taxpayer pounced on the change: He would owe an extra $1 million in taxes if all naphtha were taxed rather than only the naphtha used in combustion engines. So he argued that the original comma-free version should apply. The dispute wound up at the Alabama Supreme Court, which reverted to the original version but read in the serial comma all the same.


D - That terrific book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" cites historical examples.

In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example, "woman, without her man, is nothing" and "woman: without her, man is nothing" have greatly different meanings, as do "eats shoots and leaves" and "eats, shoots and leaves".[1] "King Charles walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off" is less surprising than "King Charles walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off".

(D - seriously- battles were lost due to bad punctuation in vital messages!)

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can forever be happy—will you let me be yours?
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can forever be happy. Will you let me be?


D - surprisingly, foreign-born ESL students often have a superior grasp of punctuation. Native-born students are rarely formally taught punctuation these days.

D - my GF is a journalist. She wistfully lamented the lack of another punctuation symbol with less emphasis than a comma, but more than just a space between words.
I intend to reform punctuation also with HIOXian. Somehow, nobody ever thinks to do so while they are making a new world language, or even when just reforming English spelling.
I can overtly indicate WHICH function a particular punctuation symbol is performing, with the option to gloss over it. This system uses a vertically-split "half" HIOXian character. (Think 16 segment alphanumeric calculator display.) I expect to indicate paired symbols such as brackets with matching mirror-image opposite halves.

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

I corrected a journalist a coupla years back. She moved the decimal on the power needed to split urea. It went from 4x better than water for H2 to about 40x! All the big media outlets ran with it, without ever checking the original source. It was very sad.