Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Sic Semper



An Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus).

For various goofy reasons, my husband, my sister, and I have developed our own names for many birds. This one is affectionately known as a Kingburger.

Sic semper tyrannis is the Virginia state motto, and the phrase that some witnesses claim JW Booth shouted after shooting Lincoln. It's often misspelled as tyrannus, which changes the meaning.

A little History of North American Bird Names.

While looking up tyrannus references, I ran across the Guidelines for contributors to Birding. Ruh-roh. I am so guilty of indefinite references. Oh dear. Restrictive vs. nonrestrictive clauses. Good thing I wasn't planning to write an article for them anyway.

(Imagine musical notes here.) It's my blog and I'll abuse grammar if I want to... overused ellipses and hyphens in place of em-dashes oh yeah! Misplaced apostrophes oh no no no... Misusing "hopefully" and blatantly writing a plural possessive adjective when referring to a singular concept, ooh wah baby...

Actually the misplaced apostrophe is one of my pet peeves.

22 comments:

Rexroth's Daughter said...

If it wasn't for indefinite references, I would have no references at all.
I love how you write... ellipses make me happy. Hyphens and em-dashes are different? Hopefully, most people won't notice!
Beautifiul photo of an Eastern Kingbird.

Hick said...

Ellipses are my life's blood...

Hey! It's summer, isn't it? Lighten up. Your'e makin' my' min'd hurt''

Heh!!!

(I also hate it when someone uses more than one exclamation mark!!!)

NoIvory said...

It's summer and in the summer I tend to use lots of ! points! It's so liberating! And freeing! And sometimes annoying! :)

Rurality said...

RD thanks, you're forever on my "nice" list. There are a lot of things I didn't know until I read those guidelines. Or maybe I just forgot them.

Hick!!! Me too!!! Hmm, a no-latin policy for the summer? Or just no grammar references? If I stop what little amount I use my brain now I might fall apart altogether. (And you know technically it's not summer YET.)

Noivory! I know! What you mean!

Really got to get some work done now. :)

yllstonewolf said...

rules in a book are one thing, delightful to read is another...elipses are better than all of those extra words they represent. i love reading here - tell 'em i said so :)

thingfish23 said...

Rules are made to be folded, spindled, mutilated, masticated, digested, defecated, and forgotten.

What if all poetry was in iambic pentameter? What? No ee cummings? No way.

If I can't "hear your voice" when I read your words, I'm GONE, baby.

The same goes for photography, painting, spoken language even. Learn the rules so you know how best to torture them into twisted tools of your verbal (or expressionistic) whimsy.

roger said...

back in high school-- way back when-- i asked in english class about some famous author's use of non-sentences (hemingway?) and was informed that that is "poetic license." being a semi-smartass i asked when i would get my poetic license. "when you pass subject a," i was informed. subject a, for you non-californians, is an entrance test for state schools of higher learning. failure to pass means "bonehead english" is a required course, apparently the majority result now. i passed. i use my poetic license freely and liberally now. has anyone noticed?

Dave said...

There are no rules for good writing, just a few broad guidelines (write concretely; fewer words better than more; etc.) As for punctuation, word processing and HTML impose some restrictions. I use em dashes a lot - can't do without 'em - but the once-standard way to type them was "--", which is subject to being split in half at the end of a line. I quickly noticed the same thing happening with elipses. I much prefer typing them with spaces between each dot, but again, I don't like it when an elipsis gets split between two lines. Type it as "[word]... " and it stays where my common sense says it should, with the preceding word.

The culture of bloggin allows further liberties becasue much of what we're writing is journalistric or stream-of-consciousness in nature. Eccentric punctuation is an important way to establish a unique voice.

All that said, it's perfectly reasonable for editors to impose their own, arbitrary guidelines.

Dave said...

Mispelings nad tpyos, howevur, aer inescusable!!!

Niobium said...

People who use way to many periods in their ellispes bug the poop out of me............

ALSO, PEOPLE WHO SCREAM AND USE LOTS OF ......!!!!!!!!!???????? in the subject line of an email drive me to drink.

Zanne said...

You go girl!!

I love double exclamation points, ellipses, em-dashes AND I support your right to dangle partciples wherever you see fit.

Rurality said...

OK, several more on the permanent "nice" list now. :) Thanks y'all.

Thingfish, normally the comments are all emailed to me, but yours never made it... wonder if an anti-spam program took issue with your choice of poets?!

Oh no it's another of my favorite made-up punctuation marks: "?!"
This mark should really have a name, I just don't know what it is.

DPR you could print those up and sell them. Humorous and profitable. :)

Dave I didn't realize those things. Or, again, I just forgot them. The Guidelines had really specific requirements about hyphens and en- and em-dashes. They also said only one space belongs after a period, and made a rather snarky remark that the rule might surprise people "over thirty"!

The screaming gets to me too. Unless it's EGGAGOG. And then it's just bizarre.

Nuthatch said...

Kingbirds! Another favorite bird, full of (if I may be anthropomorphic [probably not allowed by Birding, nor brackets within parentheses])personality and zest for life. And hey, thanks for linking to bootstrap analysis and the kind words. I've posted a link to you on my about page, and will visit often!

Rurality said...

Thanks Nuthatch! Hope all my nature-nut friends will visit your site to see lots better bird photography than mine. (And to read someone who really could write for Birding!)

Ron Sullivan said...

There is a name, sort of, for "!?" and the name is "interrobang." Too long for editing slang, but there ya go. I remember some corny-joking proposal years ago to combine them into one mark that looked like an open snaphook over a dot; that was the occasion for giving it a name.

Nice kingbird shot, too. I do like their attitude.

Nuthatch said...

Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but I have written for Birding! More often for Birder's World, though, a friendly and cooler mag!

LauraP said...

"blatantly writing a plural possessive adjective when referring to a singular concept, ooh wah baby..."

Eeeek!!!

Rurality said...

Ron I love it! Interrobang. I usually write it backwards I guess, with the questioning part foremost and the incredulity following after.

Nuthatch, as my husband is fond of saying... ah-HA! :) I was going to say that I'd be checking your hyphens and dashes and such, but since I don't know your real name - curses, I'm foiled. We used to get tons of birding magazines (and tons of other magazines too), but have had to cut back since we didn't have time to read them all!

LauraP, otherwise known as... using "their" instead of "his or her". As in, "Somebody failed to pick up their trash." I say that kind of thing all the time. I'm going on record as predicting that this will be standard English in 30 years or so. (Of course by that time everybody will most likely actually be saying "Somebody failed to pick up they trash." Or some other as yet unknown incorrect grammar.)

LauraP said...

Double eeek!!! One person's peeve is another's 'so what', right?

Ron Sullivan said...

I believe Shakespeare used "they" or "their" in that singular-neutral fashion, so there's plenty of precedent. I'm thinking that it's more likely to become standard than "his or her" (the current thing, but clunky) or "his/her" or any of the inventions like "ter."

Nuthatch, my DH Joe just had a piece in Birder's World. He's hoping to pitch them more; he found it one of the easiest getting-edited* experiences he's had. Of course, he's had some serious loons to deal with in that capacity...

I use ellipses more online than in print. Something about this way's being more "oral" -- though my print style is pretty much for the ear anyway.

*So now we need a verb for that one, "editing" in the passive voice.

Charles said...

I hate misplacing apostrophes too. Then I can never find them when I need em.

bu dum DUM.

Sunidesus said...

I'm loving the kingfisher shot, and the grammar discussion is making me giggle!

I agree that that particular usage of "their" will be commonplace, and correct, in the future. Other languages have neutral singular posessives... English should to! I think I probably overuse those ellipses too, and parentheses (sp?). Oh well, I know the rules. I'll break 'em if I want to!