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Rules. What Rules?



I was just wondering…how you feel about punctuation.

What, you don't sit around thinking about punctuation? Good for you. Should be full auto, right? I mean, aside from the occasional dropped comma or missing question mark, there's not much to pay attention to, and at any rate, all the grammar checkers are pretty good about policing the punctuating.

On the other hand, if you're a writer like me, you have to know your shit when it comes to punctuation. I mean, with every sentence there's at least one decision to make, and with the way I write (as does personal fave Sal Rushdie), there's likely to be all kinds of decisions to be made With Respect To (WRT) punctuation. Like the last sentence. Aside from the sentence defining period at the end, we had not one but two sets of parentheses, and a comma. That's four decisions about punctuation right there.

But.

Like I say. Full auto. For me, anyway. Punctuation is programming, a pure and profound form of code, written into our brains from the earliest age. Oh yeah, layer after layer, all the simple stuff, first. The almighty period. The always handy comma. There's a layer for question and exclamation marks. (Are 'they' ever going to permit the interrobang?!) Then, when you really want to get confused, throw in some quotation marks. Wrap it all up with rules and restrictions. Burn it in to the cortex and you got yourself a versatile, if complex, system of communication that get applied automatically to all the words you produce.

Bitchin'.


The reason I bring this up is…I'm not so big on rules. You feel me? The topic of rules always makes me think of that scene in the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", where Butch gets straight about the rules.


(https://youtu.be/w9KBOhPXhds)


I don't know what it is, but in my earliest memories I see a pattern of…resistance. To authority! My mom learned early—you want to get me to do something, tell me I can't do it. Okay? Do not direct me to do the thing you want, instead advise me not to do it, and you'll most likely find I'll step right up and get the thing done. It's called reverse psychology and my mom used it to perfection.

I flash back to a Saturday morning at the Boyles household. Saturday's were supposed to be for play! But we had to do Saturday chores before we could go out and play. And when it came time to do those chores the conversation would go something like this.

"Bill? You better not be in there cleaning up your room young man!" Hollerin' at me. Down the hall.

My reaction: "Uh, if I'm not mistaken, this is my room, and I will clean it up if I want to?"

Confusion buzzes in my brain. I know there is something about my response that's not right, but I can't detect precisely where the failure is.

"You better mind me young man. If I come in there and find that bed has been made, there's gonna be some consequences."

To which I would apply, with increasing agitation, "Again, if I'm not mistaken, this is my bed and I'm gonna make it right now!"

Again, the confusion. Again, the sense that I'm 'winning' the argument…but that somehow, I'm not being rewarded the way I expected. All while I was busily making my bed.

It's not much different now.

For real, you come at me all heavy and say "this must be done". Ima push back. And all you need to do is come on all stealthy and say "I'm pretty sure this can't be done" and I'll swing immediately into action, just to prove you wrong.

So, I know I'm going to catch hell for my defiance of the rules of punctuation. And grammar. I keep hearing "before you break the rules, you got to know the rules". Oh, I know the rules. I know you don't type, "Let's eat Grandma". It has to be, "Let's eat, Grandma".

Go ahead, send the Grammar Police on me. I'll just say, "Punctuate this!"

that that is is that that is not is not is that it it is


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