In Praise of the Humble Comma
The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said — could it not? — of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma — unless it be breath itself?
Punctuation, one is taught, has a point: to keep up law and order. Punctuation marks are the road signs placed along the highway of our communication — to control speeds, provide directions and prevent head-on collisions. A period has the unblinking finality of a red light; the comma is a flashing yellow light that asks us only to slow down; and the semicolon is a stop sign that tells us to ease gradually to a halt, before gradually starting up again. — Pico Iyer, 2001. Via Time.
Trust Malayalam to have more than one word for love which are all still used in conversation. :)
(1. Pranayam, 2. Sneham, 3. Ishtam, 4. Premam)
The Pushcart War had a profound impact on me; when I was a kid I devoured it several times, and I’ve carried it deep inside me ever since. The book gave me a point of entrance—my first, I imagine—into the world of resistance to political and economic injustice and chicanery. It made opposition, even non-violent civil disobedience, seem fun and right and necessary and heroic, and something even someone as powerless as a kid could and should undertake.
The New York Review Children’s Collection 50th Anniversary edition of Jean Merrill’s classic The Pushcart War, illustrated by Ronni Solbert, hits bookstore shelves this week!
I own this book! Read so many times the cover is starting to come off.
1) You are allowed to take up space. You are a human.
2) You are allowed to have a voice.
3) You are allowed to leave whenever you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
4) You deserve more than someone who doesn’t know how to respect you.
5) You are allowed to put your own needs first.
6) You are allowed to love yourself.6:11 p.m. (Six reminders for bad times)
Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions. Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately ‘favouring’ the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time.
In other public contexts, too, such as seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that they are getting more than their fair share. Dale Spender explains this as follows:
“The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.”
In other words, if women talk at all, this may be perceived as ‘too much’ by men who expect them to provide a silent, decorative background in many social contexts.