Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Dot Dot Dot Dash - Joan Lennon
I love the questions kids ask when you go into schools and libraries to talk about being a writer. If the kids are small it can be a bit surreal. Questions like "I have an Auntie" or "We have a blue car" can be tricky to answer. But get a little higher up in the school and there are some interesting and stimulating queries. I don't even mind "Where do you get your ideas?" And one of these days I'll come up with a really ground-breakingly stunning answer.
But the other day I got a brand new one.
"What's your favourite punctuation?"
I have never been asked that before. I knew my answer right away, however. It's the dash. I bet the teacher wanted to kill me slowly for that, but it's true. Everyone who has to work with me knows I am over-fond of that little horizontal line. I love its breathiness, its pace, its panache and elan and eclat and its je ne sais quoi.
I also love ... By which I don't mean "If you wait a bit, I'll tell you what I love." I mean I also love ellipses. They feel like the white space on a page of poetry. Infinite things can happen during an ellipsis. Where a dash is a race, an ellipsis is a leap ...
And so I began to wonder about Morse code. There are many things I did not know about Morse code. I did not know, for example, that a dash is equal to 3 dots. I did not know that "dash ellipsis" is B, or that "ellipsis dash" is V. But I do know that a language that makes use of my two favourite members of the punctuation family has an enormous attraction. Not to mention how useful it has so often proved itself to be for those trapped in prisons with nothing but a pipe and a tin cup. The next spare moment that comes my way really should be committed to learning this excellent code.
dash dot dash dot / dot dot dot dot / dot / dot / dot dash dot / dot dot dot
P.S. Are all forms of punctuation equal in your eyes, or do you have a favourite? It would be interesting to know!
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