Friday, September 15, 2017
And in Our Heads ...!?!?!
I woke up early this morning thinking about cartoons. About those images we're all familiar with of cartoon characters whose heads are filled with--or are surrounded by--punctuation marks, marks intended to let us know that a character is confused or adamant or whatever. Like the emoji at the top of this page.
And I started thinking about times when my head has been filled with questions--or exclamations--or periods--or dashes (I seem to use a lot of those--don't I?).
In my lifetime I've been watching some punctuation marks disappear or evolve--if slowly so. I often now see restrooms with Mens and Womens above the door. (Buh-bye, apostrophes.) Starbucks doesn't have an apostrophe. And in the age of texting, emojis often replace the marks we once would have used.
I've also noticed (to counter my own argument) the proliferation of some marks--like the exclamation point. It's no longer sufficient to say No way! We have to write No way!!!!! Or maybe even add some other marks: No way!?##*4;r50293u4r5
Random punctuation used to mean profanity. Shut your *##$ing mouth! Now ... we use the profanity instead--much more efficient.
The ellipsis (...) is also more ubiquitous these days (I've used a few here ... haven't I?), though it often has grown, eschewing its old-fashioned three-period formulation and expanding to multiple periods. And when I saw her there ..... with HIM! ..... well, I just wanted to ...........
So it goes in Punctuation World.
But I really wasn't thinking too much about all of this in the early pre-dawn today. Instead, I was thinking how we seem to be living in an era where people have very few question marks in their heads. We are all so sure about things. Too few of us see any ambiguity in things--or complexity. Right. Wrong. That's it.
Check out the commentators on the news stations. When was the last time you ever heard anyone say, "Well, you know, Phil, that's a very complex issue--a lot of ways to look at it"?
No. Commentators are positive--and that stuff rubs off: Too many of us these days are positive--and often about things that are extraordinarily complex and nuanced. All the question marks that danced around our heads as children are gone, replaced by exclamation points and emphatic periods.
My wish for myself in all of this? That I will forever be surrounded by question marks, that I will continue wondering and learning and changing. (My young grandsons are my models here!) And--dare I say it?--improving.
No question marks in your head? You're intellectually dead. No, not dead, just frozen in a glacier like one of those prehistoric men and women who sometimes reappear these days in the melting ice. I'm positive about it.