Monday 22 April 2013

Punctuation and Punctures

Just a link today to this brief history of punctuation. Punctuation comes from the Latin for point or prick. The verb was pungere, but the little hole made was a punctum (it's a little complicated, more here). Thus the little dots in text were, in Medieval times, called punctuation. Somebody concerned with fine points of behaviour is punctilious. And if you arrive at exactly the point you were meant to, you are punctual. Somebody who doesn't feel the little pricks of conscience when he sticks a knife into your car's tyres has no compunction about puncturing.

And somebody who punctures your body without compunction is practicing acupuncture.

The Inky Fool trying to cure his pins and needles


  1. Post-punk is after you stop wearing safety pins.

  2. Totally enthralled by "The Etymologicon" (Berkley paperback, 2011), thanks!

    That said, your assertion (challenge?) on page 262: "The greatest joy ... is to get one up [on someone] by correcting their English" prompted me to make the following comment.

    While I would not presume to question or correct your "English", I do take issue with one instance of punctuation. Specifically, just a few pages prior (240 & 241 to be exact) you form the possessive of Diogenes with a trailing apostrophe ... twice, i.e. "Diogenes' school" and "Diogenes' gymnasium".

    I believe the proper possessive form would be "Diogenes's school".

    Yes, my mother was an English teacher ...