Monday, March 24, 2008
The Queens English
Check out (via your click) the handmade sign in the center of this shop window in Jackson Heights. I doubt its creator was an English major, but he has admirably bothered with the inclusion of commas, a colon and some apostrophes.
Let’s consider his use of apostrophes after CD and DVD. I am often tempted to use them likewise. They are probably not necessary. Wouldn’t an upper case CD followed by a lower case s do the trick? In this case, the apostrophe does not denote possession (That CD’s cover is ugly.) or contraction (The CD’s almost obsolete.). It just means that they have more than one of them inside the door. And yet, there is something that draws me to using apostrophes after abbreviations like these. It seems to add a sprightly attractive note to the copy, the purpose of which is to grab my attention and to build desire.
Last night, while writing a recalled conversation I had at Slammer last Friday, I came to the part where a stranger whispered something to me while indicating a passerby. I wrote That guy is a buffet of STD’s. I corrected it to STDs, but it just didn’t look right, so I changed it back, and back and forth a few times. I felt anxiety. I still do. I can’t tell the story until I figure out the right and wrong of this. Lazy, I avoid sentences whose structures are taxing, rather than simply research the governing rules. (Why have I totally forgotten how punctuation works in the vicinity of direct quotation marks? More anxiety. This one too important not to research. It’s like the time I was leading the rosary at a wake, when suddenly, I forgot the words to the “Hail Mary”, a prayer that every Catholic knows by heart from early childhood. Clear out of my head those words went! After a few seconds of total panic, I faked a cough and asked one of the ever-ready pious ladies to take over for me while I went to get water. They may have assumed I was overcome with sorrow for the deceased, someone I had never met. After that, I pasted the text of that prayer, and of the "Our Father", into the cover of my ritual book.)
In any case, if you return to the photo, I’m quite certain that you’ll agree with me about the text on the orange CD in the upper right corner of the vitrine. Star Band’s? I don’t think so, unless Star Band owns El Grupo Ideal.
These and other wonders are to be seen in Jackson Heights, in Queens. (Queen's, as in the Borough of Queens? Or maybe Queens' in reference to the number who live there? Oh dear.)
PS: Here's the rule, although, as the writer notes, some editors and teachers disagree.