According to stories in The Washington Post and The New York Times, the period as a punctuation mark is on its deathbed.
With the swift advent of texting and the use of half sentences or less, the period that has always marked the conclusion of a thought is becoming passe. Grammarians and others who love the English language are in mourning.
Isn’t it tragic enough that many among us have also eliminated the period from spoken English?
I have often been victimized by the absence of periods in conversation, partially because I am handicapped by a soft, unassertive voice and am frequently “talked over” in group conversations.
I am not above sometimes pounding on the table or raising my hand and crying “Please!” in order to get in a few words edgewise. The sudden quiet from such an impolite act sometimes finds me speechless, since by then I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say.
With the demise of the period, the comma will take on new significance as the pause will open the door of opportunity for a person who walks too softly and doesn’t carry a big stick verbally.
Burying a bootlegger
Reader response to the recent column on the clergy has been brisk indeed. The ministry is a fascinating, if not semi-mystical, profession.
One reader raised a question that I, too, have often pondered: how a minister conducts a funeral service for someone who had led a less than commendable life. Surely, conducting such a funeral requires exceptional skill.
In going through some files, I came across an anecdote detailing how one minister addressed the problem.
The pastor of a small, dirt-poor rural church had a friend who, in effect, kept the church alive, bringing the minister a new suit each year and providing half of the church’s income.
Unfortunately, the fellow was a big-time bootlegger.
When the bootlegger died, the church was packed by people from far and wide who had come to see how the preacher would conduct the funeral.
“I know why you are here,” the minister began. “Half of you, knowing how sweet and kind the deceased was to me and this church, have come expecting me to preach him into Heaven.
“I ain’t got no Scripture for that.
“The other half, knowing how he made his living, have come expecting me to preach him into Hell. I ain’t got the heart for that.
“In a little while, after reading scripture and praying, we’re going to take him out and bury him on the hillside behind the church and whoever he belongs to will come and get him.”
Enjoy the vanity
As you drive across North Carolina this summer, you can thank the N.C. Department of Transportation for those spectacular roadside flower beds.
More specifically, you can thank motorists who purchase so-called “vanity tags,” personalized license plates that finance all those bouquets of beauty.
The planting program, begun in 1985, has expanded to 1,500 acres of flowers across the state.
Speaking of license plates, Bill Devereux writes that since January, the Raleigh area has had visitors from 45 of the contiguous states in the nation. He’s still looking for cars bearing plates from South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
So it may be that the legislature’s toilet bill foolishness has not deterred folks from visiting Variety Vacationland as much as we feared.
Word of the week
In our language there are barnyard words and front-parlor words. A note from Joe Wagoner contains the latter:
“It has been awhile since I have written, but I still read your mellifluous blurbs in the N&O.”
Snow: 919-836-5636; email@example.com