Grandma\’s Tales

October 10, 2006

Grammar – 7 A story and a quiz

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 9:44 pm

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.” (From Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss)

True to what was said in the manual, the panda ate, shot and left. Just to show what bad punctuation could do to a sentence. Lynne Truss adds, “So, punctuation does really matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death.”

I was happy to see your enthusiasm to test yourself on the apostrophe. Here is another one. Go ahead and crack it!

[1] Our societies ignorance seems to be the main reason for the spread of the disease.
[2] Its Diwali time!
[3] Dosa’s served here
[4] You have to give two week’s notice
[5] Why dont you finish the work?
[6] Pyjama’s sold
[7] Archimede’s principle
[8] For heavens sake, get this right!

All the best!


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14 Comments »

  1. Our societies’ ignorance seems to be the main reason for the spread of the disease.
    [2] It’s Diwali time!
    [3] Dosas served here
    [4] You have to give two weeks notice
    [5] Why don’t you finish the work?
    [6] Pyjamas sold
    [7] Archimedes principle
    [8] For heaven’s sake, get this right!

    Comment by Varun Chablani — October 11, 2006 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  2. [1] Society’s
    [2] It’s
    [3] Dosas
    [4] Weeks’
    [5] Don’t
    [6] Pyjamas
    [7] Archimedes’
    [8] Heaven’s

    Comment by Seshasayee Gopi — October 11, 2006 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  3. Some of the most prolific English wirters messed up their spellings and punctuation. If interested read the full- Are bloggers failed writers and half-wits or for professional journalism, is this the pits?

    Comment by Hiren — October 11, 2006 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Hiren,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment. Yes, I did get to read the article you mentioned. I just went back and read your point-by-point rebuttal. Very interesting.
    About this “most prolific writers mess up their spellings and punctuation” argument please allow me to say this.
    People do want to write without errors. One journalist told me he had a poor English teacher (one who did not correct his errors) and would be grateful for any help that was discreet.
    I think it is Shakespeare who said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. At the Blogcamp, several young people asked me to start a blog and post everyday errors with corrections. They said they were all keen to learn.
    Taking care to write without spelling and punctuation errors is like taking care to appear neat and clean. It is like washing your face and combing your hair (or leaving it carefully messed up:-) Yes, ideas are important. But when they appear clothed in poorly constructed sentences that you cannot follow, you do get distracted, don’t you? Do you always read for ideas or also for the way they are expressed? In my classes, I always give marks for ideas, but I feel I should tell my students to pay attention to the mechanics of writing. Imagine me telling them, “It’s ok to overlook spelling and punctuation errors. Great writers messed them up.” Would you say that to your kids?
    Anyway, I am not stopping at just punctuation and spelling, Hiren. As someone pointed out, very often if we get the first and the last letter right, we tend to read the word correctly (as you must have done with the word “writers” in your comment above :-)) I am moving on to other errors as well, which are so easy to avoid. My blog on the difference between “double” and “double up” was on those lines.
    Keep reading, Hiren. You’ll certainly appreciate what I’m doing here.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 11, 2006 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  5. 1] Our society’s ignorance seems to be the main reason for the spread of the disease.

    [2] It’s Diwali time!

    [3] Dosas served here

    [4] You have to give two weeks notice

    [5] Why don’t you finish the work?

    [6] Pyjamas sold

    [7] Archimedes principle

    [8] For heaven’s sake, get this right!

    Comment by Rajaram — October 12, 2006 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  6. Hi Varun,
    [1] It is “Our society’s. Well,we just happen to have just one.
    [4]I’m sure you know this. It is “two weeks’ notice”, right?
    [7]Here we are on unfamiliar ground. The rule: If we are referring to people from the ancient world, we place the apostrophe and no “s” following that. So it is Archimedes’ principle. I guess most schools now prefer to drop the apostrophe. But you do need it.
    Archimedes’ discovery
    Achilles’ heel

    Hi Seshasayee,
    You cracked it! Great!

    Hi Rajaram,
    Please check the comments above for no: 4 and 7, will you?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 12, 2006 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  7. Um. Actually, that should be Archimedes’s Principle.

    Comment by Zz — October 13, 2006 @ 7:54 am | Reply

  8. Hi Zz (wow, what a choice!),
    Thanks for stopping by. Now about your comment:
    I certainly wouldn’t score it off if someone chose to write it the way you have. Punctuation tastes keep changing. The rule I have quoted comes from modern books on punctuation, including Fowler’s Modern English Usage. It goes like this:
    Modern names ending in “s” (Keats’s poems, St. James’s cathedral) and any foreign name with an unpronounced final “s” (Alexander Dumas’s novel) require the apostrophe and the “s”.
    Names from the ancient world do not require the final “s”, as I said.
    Having said that, I guess if the singular-plural rule is maintained, the apostrophe will be understood for its function.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 13, 2006 @ 10:06 am | Reply

  9. [1] Our societie’s ignorance seems to be the main reason for the spread of the disease.
    [2] It’s Diwali time!
    [3] Dosas served here
    [4] You have to give two weeks notice
    [5] Why don’t you finish the work?
    [6] Pyjamas sold
    [7] Archimede’s principle
    [8] For heaven’s sake, get this right!

    Comment by pramoditha.k — October 17, 2006 @ 5:06 pm | Reply

  10. Hi Pramoditha,
    [1] I don’t think I’ve come across the word “societie”. As you guessed right, it is the singular noun we want, so the word is “society’s”.
    [4] Whose notice? The notice is for the two weeks, right? So it is “weeks’notice”.
    [7] Who is Archimede? When you place the apostrophe at the end of this word, the guy’s name becomes Archimede. He was called Archimedes. To show the principle was his, just add the apostrophe at the end of the word, ok? Archimedes’principle.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 17, 2006 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  11. 1) Our society’s ignorance seems to be the main reason for the spread of the disease.
    [2] It’s Diwali time!
    [3] Dosas served here
    [4] You have to give two weeks notice
    [5] Why don’t you finish the work?
    [6] Pyjamas sold
    [7] Archimedes principle
    [8] For heaven’s sake, get this right!

    All the best!

    Comment by Uma — October 18, 2006 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

  12. Hi Uma,
    Welcome to my weblog. Hope you find it time well spent. Now for the answers.
    [4] If you go through the Grammar blogs you’ll find a note on the use of the apostrophe. It tells you that an apostrophe is added to a word to show that the noun that follows belongs to it.Whose notice? The notice is for two weeks, right? So “weeks” needs an apostrophe. “two weeks’ notice”.
    [7] It is the same with Archimedes’ principle.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 18, 2006 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  13. Bush and the Republicans were not protecting us on 9-11, and we aren’t a lot safer now. We may be more afraid due to george bush, but are we safer? Being fearful does not necessarily make one safer. Fear can cause people to hide and cower. What do you think? How does that work in a democracy again? How does being more threatening make us more likeable?Isn’t the country with
    the most weapons the biggest threat to the rest of the world? When one country is the biggest threat to the rest of the world, isn’t that likely to be the most hated country?
    Are we safer today than we were before?
    We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

    Comment by Antibush — February 15, 2007 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  14. Dear Antibush, thanks for stopping by, though I’m not sure why you had to choose this post to voice your fears. Still, a couple of my thoughts.Please find them in my post.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — February 15, 2007 @ 11:04 pm | Reply


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