Saturday, March 7, 2015


What a response I received to my last blog about the death of punctuation!!!!!! Emails, Facebook praise, and personal remarks, ranging from "Bravo" to a simple "Nice" indicated to me that there are readers out there who take time away from reading text messages and flash fiction to peruse my blog! And when I revealed that I'm collecting exclamation points so they won't get exiled in the Great Punctuation Excision or become totally extinct, many readers expressed their dismay for the excisions, sending me single, double, and sometimes entire lines of exclamation points!

I've decided that I will continue this vocation of collecting exclamation points (they are taller, slimmer, and more elegant than commas and, in the case of my blog, were preceded by words of acclimation). The exclamation point seems to have brought a modicum of success that other vocations have not given me. True, collecting exclamation points won't bring financial rewards; however, none of my other vocations (begun at age 18 and still being practiced as I stand poised on the cusp of 80, come May)—secretary, realtor, Public Relations Director, Executive Director in Girl Scouting, former archdeacon in an Episcopal Diocese, preacher, counselor, deacon, supervisor, newspaper editor and writer, book writer, and poet (look how many serial commas I was able to use in that sentence!)—have ever paid me a living wage either. In fact, only one in that serial list paid me enough to buy a computer and printer to practice most of the other vocations. So why shouldn't I add another non-paying profession—collecting punctuation marks?!! I actually considered the em dash as a collection piece. The em dash is long and takes up more space than the hyphen, and it might be excised before the exclamation point, but lots of readers would just as soon witness its extinction. More sympathy has been expressed for the demise of the exclamation point. It won out as a favored mark for me to collect.

At the age of eighty, I am due some excursions into eccentricity, don't you think? Actually, if you think that collecting punctuation marks is an eccentric profession, consider the wonderful character in one of Alexander McCall Smith's novels named Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld. In the opening pages of Portuguese Irregular Verbs, the professor reflects on how fortunate he is to be exactly who he is, and nobody else. And what was his archaic profession? He collected and wrote papers on the etymology and vagaries of Portuguese verbs that were often the highlight of philology conferences. Some of his readers conceded that once the good professor presented his papers, there was nothing more to be said on his subject. "Nothing!" I've read at least three books in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series and can tell you that Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld has saved the day for the vagaries of Portuguese verbs, and no one questions his eccentricity. He is exactly who he is and nobody else!!!!!!!!!!

You will notice the drawing of the exclamation point that precedes this message about punctuation, and once I had drawn it, I wondered if I should mar the text with the crude artistic delineation that may have made my artist mother and brother on the Other Side flinch. However, as I rode past the Arts and Crafts Show in front of The Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana this afternoon, the thought occurred to me: there must be some fine artists out there who share my enthusiasm for saving punctuation—talented cartoonists who might like to draw a few original punctuation marks and contribute their art to this blog. They could scan their marks and send via the computer, and I'm certainly not averse to color illustrations. However, let me emphasize that this venue will not pay. You will join me in filling blank space (that'll soon be reserved for run-on sentences and flash writing) with large, life-giving marks, decorating and embellishing pages of poetry and prose in a way that will send the excisers of language into a corner to suck on their scantily-ink-stained fingers!!

Meanwhile, I will continue to collect exclamation marks and make it my mission to revive respect for punctuation. I'd mention this mission tomorrow at two services when I preach a sermon that contains many serial commas and several exclamation marks that no one will see, but I might be excised from the pulpit!!!!!
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