onsdag, februari 23, 2005

Right? Right?


"'Vi ska vara snälla.' Plural
'Jag ska vara snäll.' Singular. So to answer your question, it is 'Vi ska vara snälla.' Right?"

What did he mean, "Right?" He said that as if he had explained this to me before.

I used to love a London accent. It sounded cultured and sophisticated. Then I spent time around English folk. This habit of ending every sentence with the word "right" began to grate. I could hear a second grade teacher saying, "Right? Don't you see? Hmmm?"

Which brings me to an odd phenomenon, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss. I have the audio cd of the bestselling bathroom book, the latter of which developed out of the radio program Cutting a Dash. I was hoping for a few tips, some insight into punctuation issues that stop my rambling fingers dead in the keys.

What I got instead was a telling account of the "urbane, witty and very English" Ms. Truss' EQ. The story goes like this. As an English middle schooler, she was assigned an American pen pal. The American girl wrote first, being fearless and optimistic and ready to make a friend. Twas a shame, however, that the American girl's handwriting looked like that of an infants, all big and loopy and all. The American chicky went so far as to adorn her "i's" with bubbles instead of centered dots. Let's not even start on the insipid content. Eager to set the record straight on mental supremacy and emotional distance, Ms. Truss wrote back in splendid one-upsman form, hoping that her use of a semicolon within the text would deliver the ultimate coup de grace. Blimey, the little American girl sure got the short stick on that draw.

It is possible that Truss made the whole pen pal episode up, as an illustrative literary fiction. But if young Carrie Ann did exist and overcame this slight only to experience it again via big Lynne's commercial enterprise, just remember these three things, Carrie Ann:

1. It's easy for someone to win when she is the only one competing;
2. Little ghastly prigs grow up to be big ghastly prigs; and
3. The best pen pals come from Japan.