Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes On Usage

If you’re reading this you can assume that any spelling or punctuation errors appear as they do in my grandfather's original diary entries. I've dispensed with the "[sic]" notation, which I find distracting. Similarly, after some trial and error I've decided to include line breaks as they appear in his entries, because his sentences don't flow quite right when I mess around with them.

I've also tried to include struck-through words when possible. Please just remember that struck-through text has a different connotation in the age of blogging, as it's a humorous device used to convey what the author really means or would like to write (e.g. "President Bush delivered his pack of lies State of the Union address today"). This is obviously not what my grandfather had in mind when striking through text, but I still think it's valuable and interesting to examine his mistakes and changes. For that reason, I will also indicate when he's inserted text by bracketing the text [like this].

I do have some questions as to whether his punctuation and capitalization are in line with the style of the day, are personal choices, or are by-products of the collision between his old-world education and his adopted language. His English was self-taught (apparently he accomplished this by reading newspapers in the 42nd Street Public Library) but he was intelligent and had a capacity for languages (he grew up speaking six or seven, which was typical and perhaps even necessary for people who grew up on the trade routes between Eastern and Western Europe. ) The overall strength of his writing and penmanship leads me to believe he paid close attention to formalities, but I do see a few habits that I'm curious about, for example:

- He seems to use commas in place of periods a lot, and reserves periods for the end of paragraphs. Was this typical of European educated writers in the 1920's?

- He never, as far as I can see, used apostrophes. Was this due to expedience, choice or is it simply a mistake? He often leaves periods off the ends of sentences, so perhaps he was just in a hurry.

- When he uses quotation marks, his open quotes appear to the lower left of the first quoted word, and his close quote appear above the last word. This is clearly an early Twentieth Century style, which leads me to believe some of his other punctuation choices are deliberate.
I'll try to figure this out on my own, but please let me know what you know about this kind of thing.

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