Taste Luxury Humor

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Barneys is opening in San Francisco, and my co-worker C. reports a billboard. TASTE LUXURY HUMOR, it says, like a Japanese t-shirt. We fret about this over lunch, inserting mental line breaks, periods, or commas according to how much luxury humor we’re each tasting that day. I like working with clarity hounds, the ones who might skim Lynne Truss’s Eats,Shoots & Leaves, but relax only when Louis Menand gives her pedantic sloppiness a slap.

I punctuate by instinct, not by rule, and so I’m inconsistent. But I care only about the kind of mistakes that force the reader to read twice to puzzle out the meaning (or eight times, in the case of my mother’s text messages). Stray apostrophes don’t fall into this category, mostly, but Truss is so busy bullying them she comes up with plenty worse.

9 comments to “Taste Luxury Humor”

  1. Comment by Riona MacNamara:

    I’m a writer, and I’ve been an editor, but that book annoyed the crap out of me. It didn’t tell me anything anyone interested in punctuation didn’t already know – so why did it sell so well? Because it’s just a big ol’ excuse to rant on about how stupid and dumb other people are, with their silly misplaced apostrophes, and to feel all superior as a result. Feh. If I want to feel superior I’ll go read Answers in Genesis.

  2. Comment by Dervala:

    Yes! Or read, say, the “Customers who bought this book are also reading…” list at Amazon ;-) It’s all just way too Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells.

  3. Comment by Dave Vockell:

    So the billboard accomplished the first of its tasks — get you to notice and noodle. But will it deliver on the final dream of getting you into Barney’s to Taste that Luxury.

    Punctuation, schmunctuation — “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” — Ralph W.

  4. Comment by Dervala:

    Nope. They used to be able to show taste, luxury, and wit; now they resort to spelling it out, in bad typography. That makes Barneys as lame as the guy who claims a “great sense of humor.” They’re going to have to do without my massive clothing budget this year. :-)

  5. Comment by Lillian:

    Always a pleasure to read your posts – thoughtful commentary, shows that you’ve been thinking, and gets me thinking too. Heck, it’s as though you do a lot of homework – or is it part of your job?

    Never did buy the book – who wants to pay for someone else’s rant? But in response to Dave’s comment – what’s wrong with wanting to be correct? I get ribbed at work all the time for being a grammar stickler. I don’t claim to be a super-genius, just like to use proper grammar. And yes, I do recognize the informality of some media, such as IM, where you wouldn’t expect full-on grammar, at the expense of typing efficiency.

    On a tangent, you may find humourous Joy of Tech’s cartoon on email being worse for the brain than marijuana. Maybe that would explain the bad writing in otherwise “serious” email. :)

    http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/681.html

  6. Comment by josh h:

    on one of those screen tickers with the words trailing across at the bottom of the evening news was a blurb that

    woman who found…
    finger in Wendy’s chili…
    got it from husband’s associate.

    before the ociate, however, were two droll seconds

  7. Comment by eoin:

    Dickens would be corrected out of existance by the comma police. I find that people who know these gramatical rules are not very interested in writing or reading, except for technical or marketing reading – where it pays to have a comma fixation.

    ( As an aside here I threw in the “-” in the previous paragraph as a natural break in the sentence. I am delightfully unaware of what rules I am breaking, or maintaining, or whether I would be better served with some other form of deliniation; like a semi-colon, colon, or comma. Nor do I wish to know. Nor should I probably start with nor. Or something.)

  8. Comment by Dervala:

    What I dislike most about the Lynne Truss movement is not even the pedantry—it’s that her own grammar is so weird and wrong! If you’re going to be a nit-picking pain in the ass, at least get it right. She and her copy editors are just plain sloppy, and the sentences they torture are much harder to understand than “apple’s and orange’s.”

  9. Comment by Riona MacNamara:

    Dervala, you said:
    [if you want to feel superior] Yes! Or read, say, the “Customers who bought this book are also reading…” list at Amazon ;-) It’s all just way too Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells.

    Did you see this in The Onion?

    http://www.theonion.com/nib/index.php?issue=4120&nib=3