& amp;quot;Punctuation & amp;quot; Paralysis

by SHAY LOGAN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f you were able to read that headline without cringing, you are part of a growing Spokane populace that has been sadly subverted by a devious destroyer of our minds. Having watched this drama unfold for long enough, I can no longer allow the menace of quotation misappropriation to reign its terror over the hearts and minds of Spokane's citizenry. Thus inspired to action, I will begin by presenting examples that, though graphic and disturbing, are nevertheless necessary so that I might shock my audience with the truth of how far this problem has advanced.

Now I realize, as many of you probably do, that there will still be those who have fallen so far under the influence of the Quotation Quorum that these examples may not seem shocking at all. For the sake of the potential salvation of these readers, I have also provided a brief explanation of the proper role of the quotation mark; perhaps the contrast will allow the malignity of the examples to seem more evident. This quotation explanation is provided immediately following the quotations themselves.

Example 1: Near the construction site of the new soccer field on the campus of Gonzaga University a sign that reads "Path/Walkway" Closed can be found.

Example 2: Traveling north on Assembly is one way to encounter Spokane's collection of alphabetically named streets -- streets with erroneously adjoined punctuation: "A" Street, "B" Street, etc.

Example 3: Even the well-meaning folks at the Spokane Transit Authority have been victimized by the quotation infestation. Pay close attention to the warnings and advertisements on the inside walls of the buses on your next STA sponsored journey. See if you can spot my favorite, a cautionary warning telling us to "Hold on" or sit down.

Example 4: The problem reaches even to the highest strata of Spokane's society: Even the elites ensconced in the Spokane Club are not unaffected by our burgeoning quotation craze. Walking past on my way home, I saw it: Please don't drag your luggage, the sign read, concrete still "curing."

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hese haphazard quotation marks were found just this way -- their purpose inscrutable, their presence a largely ignored enigma. These marks mystify me.

The normal reason for using quotation marks is to quote, a role these particular quotation marks are clearly not playing. This is not, though, the exclusive use of the quotation mark. Thanks at least in part to the recent upswell of a new variant species of quotation mark known as the air-quote (or perhaps "air-quote"), quotation marks have been gaining currency as a way to attribute an air of hearsay to a statement. While this is a possible explanation for the use of quotation marks in the above examples, a cursory reexamination will assure you this is unlikely.

At this point, though, the ardent defender of regional grammars sees his opening: "If the quotation mark has recently acquired a new meaning," he asks, "who's to say Spokane isn't merely ahead of its time in granting further meanings to it?"

The ardent defender, though, has missed the point. I am not arguing that Spokane has introduced a new meaning to the quotation mark, but rather that Spokane's use of this particular piece of punctuation has removed from it any meaning at all. This, in turn, leaves us in a dangerous situation -- a place of postmodern punctuation paralysis. Should we expect to see a rise in punctuation delinquency soon, as we saw a rise in suburban delinquency with the late-'80s loss of a central culture? If kids with nothing to do turn to dope and skateboarding, what fallout can we expect from purposeless punctuation? One could argue that air-quotes represent the early stages of a coming delinquent punctuation population -- a kind of gateway grammatical mistake, leading to abuse of the harder stuff, like colons and semi-colons.

Spokane, the time to act, to speak out against this rising menace is now. Delinquent punctuation may rule the streets today, but it need not rule your child's bright tomorrow. Today, a peaceful solution may be possible; can we be sure of that tomorrow? Do we really want to push this off onto the coming generations to solve? Do we really want our children to have to fight this battle? Act now, and for posterity's sake, please, people, punctuate properly.

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