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Eats, Shoots and Leaves
A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter. "Why?" groans the injured man. The panda shrugs and walks out, tossing a badly punctuated wildlife manual over his shoulder. When the waiter consults the book, he finds the explanation for this behaviour. The entry for "panda" reads: "Large black and white mammal native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."
And that is how Eats, Shoots and Leaves comes to have the title it does. This book is about punctuation, but is not as dull as the subject might suggest. It is by far the wittiest and most exciting book about punctuation that we have ever seen. Indeed, it could well be described as a real laugh-a-minute page-turner.
Lynne truss is a writer and broadcaster with a passion for punctuation pedantry. Does the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you see signs for "Banana's" or "Video's"? Do you feel like screaming when you see notices like "Giant Kid's Playground", or laugh to yourself at "Mind You're Head" warnings? If so, you are not alone. You share this frustration with Truss, and the legions of sympathisers flocking to buy her book.
Indeed, Truss could almost be described as extremist, even militant, for she urges her fellow sticklers to go out in the dead of night, masked and armed with paint and marker pens, to correct these offences. Her suggestions are, we trust, made with tongue firmly in cheek, but her exasperation at how "ordinary people" are committing treason against our language shines through in her humorous and very readable style.
Truss begins by examining the apostrophe, shifts to commas, and later addresses dashes and hyphens too. And all the other punctuation marks get occasional mentions in her absorbing narrative. This is not merely a book for people wanting to punctuate properly, nor is it aimed at foreign students of English. In the introduction, Truss explains the purpose of Eats, Shoots and Leaves:
You know those self help books that give you permission to love yourself? This one gives you permission to love punctuation. It's about how we got the punctuation we have today; how such a tiny but adaptable system of marks allows us to notate most (but not all) types of verbal expression; and how (according to Beachcomber) greengrocers in days of yore inspired Good Queen Bess to create the post of Apostropher Royal. But mainly it's about making sticklers feel good about their seventh-sense ability to see dead punctuation.
Most importantly of all the book is humorous. From the amusing illustrations of what the terrible things that can happen through badly placed commas and apostrophes to the less consequential, but more irritating, grammatical howlers, Truss explains all, sometimes with a smug giggle, sometimes in a whisper of conspiracy, and sometimes with a blaze of indignant energy.
This is a book sure to be enjoyed by all.
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