Monday, 4 March 2013

unmarked white van or deppenapostroph

Usually I am not one to rise above mild amusement and not call unnecessary use of quotation marks when I see them used liberally on signage (although there appears to be a certain fondness for this practice in Germany). When I see this superfluous punctuation I want to stoop and gesture and make those air apostrophes. I am not addressing that other practice that’s a terribly prevalent butchering of the genitive case—Gertie’s Pilsstube is more often seen than the correct Gerties.

There’s a rather non-descript service vehicle that I see around the neighbourhood (incidentally, I think unmarked white vans would be a great name for any entrepreneurial enterprise) with the decals along the side for ,,ROBERT” interior construction (Innen- und ausbau). I would never decry this one, since I later realized that “Robert” was most certainly the quite competent handy-man who re-did my little workweek apartment, the floors and all, by surprise. Perhaps ,,ROBERT” is some attempt at cultural integration or some byzantine regulatory requirement for truth in advertising. If it is really the service vehicle of Roberto, that don’t know but I try not to be one to police grammar and punctuation, since I know I have a lot of faults of my own. I tend to be hyphenation-happy, for one.
I do believe that there is room for license, according to the Army book of style, there are actual rules, which cascade out like poetry or that Monty Python skit about woody words. One should omit the hyphen when words appear in regular order and the omission causes no confusion in sound or meaning: banking hours, blood pressure, book value, census taker, life cycle, living costs, mountain laurel, palm oil, patent right, real estate, time frame, violin teacher. Well, I want to connect all of these with a dash. Next, one should compound two or more words to express an idea that would not be as clearly expressed in separate words, as in: bookkeeping, follow-on, forget-me-not, indepth, in-house, gentlemen, man-hour, man-year, newsprint, offload, railcar, right-of-way, yearend. Restraint should be exercised in forming unnecessary combinations of words used in normal sequence: atomic energy power, child welfare plan, civil service examination, income tax form, parcel post delivery, per capita expenditure, real estate tax, social security pension, soil conservation measures, special delivery mail. I don’t know about all of that. It seems to me like something that someone saw on a sign once and took to heart.