ran from Mont-Saint-Michel to Utah Beach/Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, along the north-west coast of the Manche region, on the second of July. As the riders followed the 188km route, they passed through the little town of Gouville-sur-Mer, which, in the time-honoured tradition of provincial villages that the Tour visits but once every few decades or so, laid out its slogan for the TV helicopter to see: Gouville-sur-Mer, capitale mondiale de l’huître de pleine mer (Gouville-on-sea, world capital of the open sea oyster).
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.
Just the one punctuation-related link this week: Shady Characters is upping sticks and moving to London this coming week, and blogging time is scarce!
So: to Canada, where the National Post recently reported on a PhD thesis that contains no conventional punctuation.1 Submitted to the University of British Columbia by architect Patrick Stewart, a member of the Nisga’a First Nation, each of the chapters of Stewart’s dissertation opens with a summary written in standard academic English but the bulk of the work is presented without uppercase letters, full stops or commas. Stewart holds a select few marks in reserve for more troublesome concepts — a forward slash “connects words of similar meaning / emphasis”; an ellipsis “indicates a continuity of thought”; and the question mark survives intact — but, on the whole, his thesis is, as he describes it, “one long, run-on sentence, from cover to cover”.
This week, there is one punctuation-related news story that towers above all others. In the world of musical name changes, Prince’s adoption in 1993 of an unpronounceable glyph called only “Love Symbol #2” must surely retain the crown for sheer outlandishness, but Jay-Z’s reported un-hyphenation has nevertheless set the music press and mainstream media ablaze.12 It all started on the 18th of July when Billboard editor Joe Levy tweeted: