Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I see this odd little error from time to time and never really understand it—"R.I.P". If we follow the logic that the first two periods mean that "R" and "I" stand for other words, then the resulting translation is "Rest in P", not "Rest in Peace". And you thought punctuation was unimportant.

I see this error crop up in many iterations... U.S.A, A.K.A, M.I.A, etc. I see it so often that I even coined a word for it way back when sniglets were all the rage—punctinilification.

Sure, there are greater problems in the world than worrying about forgotten typographic characters, but I also feel that how carefully we deal with small details like punctinilification hints at how carefully we'll deal with the greater problems in the world. Put another way, if we can't take an extra split second to add a simple period at the end of an acronym, what hope do we have in solving world poverty?

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani took a similar approach to tackling crime when he became mayor. His idea wasn't to go after the serious crimes as a sole priority, but to also focus on "incivilities", the minor crimes like vandalism, loitering, etc. The theory was that minor crimes are the tip of the iceberg that lead to major crimes later on... the result was a completely different city greatly removed of its former criminal strife.

It always sounds so... petty to snipe at missteps in grammar or spelling but I often wonder: if we forced each other to be more precise about our use of language, doesn't it follow that our thoughts would be more precise as well? George Orwell certainly thought so.

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