Punctuation was invented to help the Reader. And the very first invention was space breaking up text — so you could tell one word from the next. Seriously.
A couple of months ago I was putting the final touches to an online course on punctuation. Not a subject to rock them in the aisles, I thought. Mind you, I love the stuff. But I have learned that, as a subject of conversation, it doesn’t generally draw children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
So when I was preparing the course, I thought I’d throw in a bit of history for context.
Only then, of course, I had to check online whether what I remembered was a) accurate and b) still received wisdom. And found something new to me: Aristophanes, Head Librarian of Alexandria aged sixty. He was sitting there, receiving rolls in Greek, the language of the prevailing empire.
Most people then, of course, would be illiterate. So the purpose of these scrolls was to provide a text for someone else to deliver in the market place or to perform as an entertainment.
BUT they arrived with all the letters in a continuous line. Presumably to save papyrus and possibly time, as they were being hand-copied by scribes.
So Aristophanes thought of a way of marking up copies of the text to help the Poor Bloody Orator who had to read them out loud. Continue reading →
We are coming up to the centenary of Georgette Heyer’s first published novel, a Georgian romance called The Black Moth, in September this year. I, like many people, first encountered Heyer as the great exponent of Regency Romance. So it startled me, when I first read the The Black Moth, to find it solidly placed in the middle of the eighteenth century.
And that is not the only odd thing about the book. It is also clearly the prequel of These Old Shades, another Georgian romance. It is also a favourite of huge numbers of her fans, and her first runaway best seller. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but The Black Moth is clearly the back story – well, a good slug of it anyway – of the devastatingly supercilious Duke of Avon. Continue reading →
A recent lecture on La Dolce Vitastarted me thinking about the variety of fictional blondes I have come across in my life. For there is something special about The Blonde. She grabs our attention the moment she appears. Indeed, in twentieth century western culture she became almost an icon.
Yet at the same time she has as many aspects as a Greek goddess, positive, negative and sometimes just plain loopy. And we all know them.
“Having a blonde moment,” my friend, author Sarah Mallory, will say, as she discovers the sunglasses she has been searching for are lodged securely on the top of her head.
She’s channelling the Airhead Blonde — charming, disorganised, sometimes a little naïve, sociable, and so good-hearted that you forgive her any amount of stuff that would irritate the hell out of you in a grey-haired matron or a sultry brunette.
Forgive her and maybe even love her. We pay to go and see movies about her. That shows you! Continue reading →