Friday, April 22, 2005

The Punctuation Pirate

A fellow blogger had a post a few days ago about mis-pronunciations of words...

In essence, bad English.

Spoken mistakes to me aren't that bad, it's the written ones that get me. I'm nowhere near perfect in that regard myself, but some things are just so blatantly obvious it's almost painful to look at.

The one thing that almost infuriates me is the misuse of the apostrophe. I'll give you an example.

On a hand-painted sign nailed to a telephone pole on my road in Arizona;

"Puppy's 4 sale, 555-1212"

I was so fucking tempted to call the number and ask what the puppies had for sale.

I don't see it too much here in West Virginia, but it was almost epidemic in proportions in Arizona. I'd see it everywhere. Restaurant menus, newspaper articles (that one is unforgivable) and advertisements. It's basic 3rd grade grammar we're talking about here, folks.

Like I said, it was more prevalent in Arizona than back east, but there is a used car lot in Beckley, WV who's professionally painted sign reads:

Quality Used Car's


But that's not what I'm trying to get at today. What I want to tell you about today is The Punctuation Pirate.

I had a Lieutenant on the police department back in the 90's who was memo-crazy. Every day I'd come into the station and would be bombarded with memos. Posted everywhere. On the bulletin board, locker room, hallway walls, doors, squadroom. I'm not talking one or two here, I'm talking ten or fifteen a day. It was driving us all nuts. Bullshit stuff too, like the temperature in Outer Mongolia. Shit like that. He was trying to impress us with his own perceived intelligence.

We all thought he was an insufferable prick.

One day, someone pointed out to me one of his memos. He said "look, there's no punctuation!"

I did and sure as shit, the whole memo was one big run-on sentence. No periods, comas, colons, nothing. Just words lined up.

I wonder who could have done that? The LT wouldn't have made such a blatant mistake!

This went on for about a month when the lieutenant gave us a little talking-to at roll call one night. He had received a memo on department letterhead with the words "The Punctuation Pirate strikes again!!!!" handwritten in red marker. (and also had a 'talking to" by the Captain)

He was pissed. He said he was going to launch an investigation to find the "Doer" in copspeak. We all chuckled because we all knew he couldn't find his ass with both hands and a flashlight.

So the Punctuation Pirate would strike at least twice a week, and it was funny he only struck when 2 squad was working. It was done really professionally too. What the Pirate would do (The best I can figure. You don't think it was me, do you?) was take the memos down, photocopy them, and then very carefully, with liquid paper, white-out each and every punctuation mark, photocopy that, and put the photocopy of the original back in the same exact place.

As an aside, someone also did this little jewel and we all thought it was the Punctuation Pirate's work. Someone broke into the Lieutenant's office one night and got into his computer. Using the "tools" function in MS Word, put the Lieutenant's name into the auto-correct, then substituted the word "Asshole" with the Lieutenant's name. So every time the Lieutenant would finish one of his memos and type his name, it would automatically change to Asshole.

He was so smart it took him three weeks to figure out how to fix that.

It was driving this Lieutenant absolutely batshit. You could see the little vein on his head throbbing, and his face would take this unhealthy magenta hue whenever the Punctuation Pirate was mentioned.

Guys even started two pools. One was who the Punctuation Pirate's real identity was, and the second pool was on the exact date of the Lieutenant's massive stroke.

This went on for a better part of two years, to the great humor of myself and the other guys on the squad. But I understand the Punctuation Pirate mysteriously disappeared (so I'm told) around the same time I quit the job and moved to Arizona in August of 1998.

I wonder whatever happened to him?

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden


Becky said...

Have you ever seen the movie "Super Troopers"? I know someone who used to try to sneak the word "meow" in when he would do a traffic stop, just like in the movie. Sounds like the fraternity's pretty much the same no matter where you go!

AlaskaJen said...

You ought to read Eats Shoots and Leaves. My copy is in storage or I would send it to you...