Friday, May 11, 2007

The Horse Is Sick

I'm reading Lynne Trusse's Eats, Shoots & Leaves at the moment (a review is probably coming up) and here's one of the things she has to say about commas:
Now, here's a funny thing. When the interruption to the sentence comes at the beginning or the end, the grammatical rule of commas-in-pairs still applies, even if you can only see one of them. Thus:
Of course, there weren't enough tickets to go round.
is, from the grammatical point of view, the same as:
There weren't enough tickets, of course, to go round.
as well as:
There weren't enough tickets to go round, of course.
For the grammar fetishists out there, I have taken the liberty of penning the following poem for you to punctuate as you see fit. I've put in three full-stops, but commas and semi-colons and ems and ens and what-not have been left out. Punctuate away!

But Off Course

A horse is a horse of course of course
Of course a horse is of course a horse
A horse is of course a horse off course
Except when that horse is a horse on course.

A hoarse horse of course is hoarse on course
An off course hoarse horse of course is hoarse off course
But of course the cause of the off course hoarse horse
Is the taking the on course horse off of course.

A horse is a horse of course of course
Except when they say that horse is Mr Ed
And of course a horse is neither an on course nor an off course horse
If that horse is of course a horse that is dead
So take your hoarse horse off course of course
And put the poor bastard to bed.


Karen said...

I don't know why, but I just can't get into pedantry. I suppose it's because I don't like anything that has even the faintest whiff of smugness about it. I did like your poem though!

This is one of the most interesting books about human communication and its breakdowns I've encountered (and much of it isn't really punctuated!).

TimT said...

For my next trick, I will attempt to render the budget and the budget reply speech into limericks:

It's thanks to this government's management,
It's sensible, sustainable management,
That this economy
Is such a phenomen-y

I'm Kevin, and I have a vision,
A wonderfully really big vision;
This country is clever
And will go on forever
Did I mention that I have a vision?

I shall keep an eye out for that book; thank you.

Karen said...

Your budget limericks are absolutely spot on! That whole interest rate nonsense last time was just so depressing, because it was predicated on this assumption that most people are thoroughly stupid. I know most pollies work on that assumption, but they don't have to be so open about it!

It's a very little book, but a devastating one. I think you would like it, as someone who is interested in language and word games.

(Off-topic moral quandary: is it wrong to lie on a gym's fitness assessment form if you find some of the questions impertinent? I am fessing up to an immediate family history of heart disease, so I figure that gives me some flexibility on the rest).

nailpolishblues said...

Oh how I adore Lynne Truss. In her other book [the name of which I obviously can neither remember or be bothered looking up] she beautifully displays what a cranky old lady I shall be once I hit thirty and feel justified in being a cranky old[ish] lady. What the hell happened to manners? I know what happened to grammar [oh thank you education policies of Queensland], mine at least.

Also, I would totally take up your challenge were it not for the small screen & illegal internet thing.

I've always found smugness in the right person to be terribly appealing. But then, I've always secretly [not that secretly] wanted to go around slapping people for being smug/annoying/whatever so I guess it's all part of the same sick desire.

TimT said...

I don't know how it's possible to take those form things serious any more. We answer so many of them, and so many of them get shoved into the bin at the first opportunity - it's just an irritatant of the modern age.

Review forthcoming, but in the meantime, here's a neat review of the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Lynn Truss (otherwise known as Tim Sterne).

Karen said...

If the right person possessed even one iota of smugness, I'd bludgeon it out of them pronto! That said, I really wish computers had red markers attached to them, because I have an irresistable urge to ad the -ly to the word "serious" in Tim's comment.

I agree about the forms, but this one is genuinely peturbing. There's a section entitled "Psychological Outlook" and a subsection in that about "Family History of Depression (if any)". Would anyone really tell them about that? Later on there are questions about contraception and pap smears (happily they do not request that you append a copy of the results).

This is the sort of thing that makes me a cranky, nearly old(ish) woman!

Karen said...

Christ! "Add" not "ad". See how smugness can bring you undone in the end!

Karen said...

Not forgetting "perturbing"! When will my debt of smugness end?

TimT said...

I'm still beating myself up about not adding the 'ly' to 'serious' in my previous comment. Arrrrrrgh! (Counts the number of 'r's' in the arrrrrrgh to make sure he's got it right. Yes. Good.)

Karen said...

Say three Hail Marys for each "r" over the official limit.

Karen said...

Hail Lynnes, rather!

Tim said...

I do not enjoy Lynne Truss but I did enjoy your poem. Thanks for linking to my/Lynne's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang review. It contains one of my favourite lines: "Yes, I have authoritarian tendencies, but I feel bad about them - yet more proof of my left-wing credentials." Favourite lines that I have written, that is, not favourite lines in all literature. I don't even get a look in on that list.

nailpolishblues said...

Um, why are you putting a dead horse to bed? Isn't that a trife mafia?

TimT said...

Tim, if somebody ever did a list of quotables from the blog world, you'd be right up there.

Nails, I'm putting the sick horse to bed. It's a metaphor, which I put in, pretty much, for the purposes of rhyme.

alexis said...

K, it's okay to lie and evade on these forms if the lies and evasions are more interesting than the truth. So, under "Family History of Depression (if any)", try "Is the Pope Catholic?"; under "Contraception", put "alligator skin"; under "Pap smears", "You first."

alexis said...

Only, maybe not that bit about alligator skin. I briefly forgot my alligator lib principles.

nailpolishblues said...

Wow, really? Wow.

TimT said...

I think I must have missed a subtle irony there ... obviously my brain has worn its use. I think I'll go and hock it off on ebay.

Karen said...

Much as I love your sense of humour, Alexis, I shudder to think of the exercises the gym brigade would assign to the sarcastic (sarcasm being a form of mental illness, as you know). I tried to make a mild joke tonight about the little man in the picture falling off the running machine and that fell completely flat. So best not to broach the alligator skin question (didn't the Romans have cow skin? Can't remember that factoid). In the throes of pity they might feel compelled to call me "darling" again.

I've been trying to think of just why I dislike Lynne Truss so much and I finally realised that it's because, although much older than me, she reminds me of one of my least favourite things, namely precocious children. I'm still smarting from an incident quite some time ago when one bold little person informed me that I only needed to push the button at the traffic lights once and, horror of horrors, was not reprimanded for being rude to "the nice lady". Fortunately, later in the same week, when my mother was informed that you cannot walk dogs on the beach, she was able to show her diminuitive upbraider the sign indicating that you could walk dogs on this very beach. So the precocious children didn't get one up on the clan that week!

I hope there will be roasted chestnuts at your nut festival, and nuts covered in Haigh's chocolate too.

nailpolishblues said...

Me, subtle? Doubt it.

TimT said...

Nails, now you're gloating.

Karen, you're spot on about Truss - as evidenced by the relish with which she tells the story about blowing her American pen friend out of the water while both were at 14(!) years of age.

Never seen it in Sydney, but central Melbourne has roasted chestnuts on every street corner. I confess never to having eaten them. Maybe Alexis or Tim or Caz have tried them?

nailpolishblues said...

No, I'm not. You misinterpreted most of that - which is fair enough since I don't explain myself [and no, I'm not going to].

I've seen people selling roasted chestnuts a few times. Think it's quite a new thing in Sydney. Also, quite touristy as they have mostly been in tourist areas.

Karen said...

I haven't read any Truss (yes, I'm judging the book by its cover), so I wasn't aware of the story about the American penfriend. And she still relishes it so many decades later? Golly! I had a Canadian penfriend in the Truss mould when I was 15 and she told me that my shyness was an indication of how arrogant I really must be to assume that anyone would bother to notice me!

I haven't had any roasted chestnuts, but I think I first noticed them in Melbourne last November. However I do think I've seen them in Sydney since, possibly around Chinatown.

nailpolishblues said...

To be perfectly honest, I recall being enormously pretentious [had to be enormously so, had an awful lot of inbred [literally] morons to contend with], and having friends, especially those who were more intelligent and articulate and aware of the greater world [a thing sadly lacking in our little town] and better read than our contemporaries and whatever else, be, in short, precocious little, um, snots. I'm sure we were complete arseholes and if I could access our correspondence from that time [I really do have a crap memory] I doubt I'd apologise for a single word. I might even be tempted to gloat. Fuck, I lie; I would be tempted to gloat. Still, I wouldn't necessarily judge either them or me over our behaviour as snotty teenagers. Then again, there is much that sicks in my mind from that period that I am most definitely not proud of but that I remember and use, to myself and sometimes others, to illustrate my own faults.

Karen said...

Can I just say that I don't take issue with the precocious children per se, but, rather, with their parents for thinking that that sort of behaviour is an indication of the superiority of their offspring. I certainly wouldn't judge someone on the basis of what they did or said as a teenager (or even as an early adult).
But I do find myself often wishing that people would just be a little kinder to each other and not regard life as one big competition.

nailpolishblues said...

Who among us likes bad manners?

Truss has a book about that...

ras said...


Way too long to read to the end, but long enough for me to leave a silly little message at the end that makes the effort of getting to number 27 seem rather futile.


TimT said...

No, no - on the whole, I'd say it's the best comment number 27 I've *ever* read.

But then, I always say that when people compliment me.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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