We moved from London to Birmingham a couple of years ago now, and one of the first things I noticed when we arrived were the street signs: extravagant, cast-iron behemoths far removed from London’s restrained licence plates for buildings. Above is a typical street sign in Edgbaston, our then-new neighbourhood; below is an old-style enamelled sign from Wandsworth, our previous one.
We’ve visited Ampersand Mountain, with its eponymous creek and hotel, and we’ve heard tell of mythical San Seriffe Island; now, welcome to scenic Asterisk Pass in Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park! This excellent image was taken by Travis Kochel of Trail Type. Many thanks to him for permission to republish it.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of empty space as a form of punctuation. Certainly, I’m guilty of giving pride of place to visible marks such as the pilcrow (¶) and interrobang (‽). But this isn’t to ignore the groundbreaking invention of the word space in the medieval period; the disappearance of the pilcrow to create the paragraph indent; or, most recently, the use of variable-length spaces as pauses in Patrick Stewart’s 2015 PhD thesis. Also recently, I was encouraged to look again at the subject of whitespace-as-punctuation by a visit to the Science Museum here in London.
In lieu of a post this week, head over to BBC.com’s Culture section to read my article about “The Mysterious Origins of Punctuation” — it’s hot off the presses! Want to chat about it? Post a comment here or over at the related Facebook post. Shady Characters readers will be right at home, and I hope you enjoy it!
A genuine miscellany this week; a grab-bag of punctuational ephemera to chew over at your leisure. First, I would draw your attention to Benjamin Samuel’s forensic, heart-breaking, and hilarious ode to the comma at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. I quote: