A shared language so why can’t we communicate adequately?
A letter from Jack Lincoln-Palmistry to Maude Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh
My spelling and punctuation are good enough if people can read my poetry. As far as I am concerned, that will do.
Is that enough of an answer?
Anyway it’s all covered in my book.
All very well, Mr Lincoln-Palmistry - Poet Laureate (Retired), but it doesn’t satisfy where a reply or response from your Good Self is required. Would it be churlish of me to point out that I have sent you many e-mails and letters over the last couple of weeks, and you have not responded with more than a very few poorly chosen words, and yet you now batter me with the above?
I must admit that I like the look of your lovely book, but this all goes to prove that “One can’t judge a book by its cover”.
It’s all a matter of correct punctuation.
I hope you don’t mind my asking, but did you mean to say:
“My spelling and punctuation are good enough if people can read my poetry. As far as I am concerned, that will do”.
Or did you mean to say:
“My spelling and punctuation are good enough. If people can read my poetry, as far as I am concerned, that will do.”
You have a habit, I have observed, in writing a few disjointed sentences and then, almost as an afterthought, flinging a handful of commas at it as you depart.
Don’t you see that by throwing that comma in as you left the room, you confused me?
The only thing that I find vaguely interesting in this exchange, is that it reminds me that, some years ago, when preparing a brochure for Twilight Lawns plc, I made a mistake in the spelling of the word ”pastime” and you picked me up on it. I had written passtime. Would it be correct for me to admit that I will never forget that incident... nor forgive myself?
There are several words... No...There are many words that I have difficulty in spelling. Or have had. But that’s what intellect and education is all about... not spurious education or whatever La di da, limpwristed term that has been levelled at my honest attempts to follow basic rules, and to realise that there are rules to be adhered to if one requires clarity.
When the Oiks of this world take over, and your philosophy of “That will do” becomes prevalent, then aspiration and a desire to reach a higher plane will be stifled.
I have never at any stage maintained that my spelling is wonderful, nor even very good, but, when I require help, I do take advantage of all the crutches that are available to the average man or woman, and I almost invariably check my spelling on the computer where and when I can, or use the facilities offered by the OED… One copy of which lies beside my bed, and the other in the sitting room. I refer to it more regularly than many others because I have need of them.
If you may remember, from your brief stay at Twilight Lawns plc, there is also a copy of the OED in the Queen Alexandra Day Drawing Room and Recreation Area, and another in the Princess Margaret-Rose Library which is adjacent to the Princess Margaret-Rose Cocktail Bar and Lounge. I believe, but I am not too sure, that there is also a copy of Webster’s Dictionary in the house; mainly for the use of our dear Transatlantic Cousins.
It is the attitude of “That will do”… or worse, “It doesn’t matter”, which horrifies me. Maybe it is because, in a former life, I was a teacher and also a Brown Owl in the Girl Guides Movement; maybe it was because I majored in English when I was at my finishing school, Saint Barbara-the Confused, in Switzerland; maybe it was because I was brought up in a household, in a family, and a society which respects our Mother Tongue. Maybe they all contribute. I really hope, and believe, so.
And to this, if I am at all lucky, I will receive a reply of maybe a couple of dozen words.
Mr Lincoln-Palmistry - Poet Laureate (Retired), you have enormous capabilities and talents in prose writing. Your whimsical anecdotes are frequently charming and amusing. Why don’s you hone your skills in that sphere and perhaps make something of them?
Your most obedient servant,
I’m not going to bother answering your last letter to me because its got to many words and it makes my head spin. You all ways write to much.
That's all I have to say for now.
As I have heard someone has already said about you, “You are the most rudest person I have ever met.”
All I can say is that I can see the subjectivity in the use of the comma. It is, kind of please yourself and upset someone, somewhere along the line. Is that not the case? Howard Spring was a master of the comma, the semi colan and the full colan.
Did he, by any chance mean colon and semicolon?
Dear Mr Lincoln-Palmistry,
Do you, by any chance mean colon and semicolon? One wonders what goes on in Lincoln-Palmistry world.
And what on earth do you mean by “subjectivity in the use of the comma”? I know we use the same words, in the same language, Mr Lincoln-Palmistry, but sometimes you leave my mind spinning.
Without being too rude, Sir, and Heaven knows, I have never been guilty of being so to any man, woman or beast, may I point out that, once again, you have made a few punctuation errors in your last little missive?
I’m not going to bother answering your last letter to me because its (its should have been it’s -the abbreviation of it has) got to (to should have been too) many words and it makes my head spin. You all ways (all ways should have been always) write to (to should have been too) much.
Thats (Thats should have been that’s - the abbreviated form of that is) all I have to say for now.
As I have heard (Shouldn’t there have been a comma here?) someone has already said about you: “You are the most rudest (one must never use most with rudest, as most modifies a word to make it the superlative, whereas rudest is already the superlative adjective modifying the word person) person I have ever met.”
And finally, you ended your letter to me with “Your’s sincerely”.
There is nothing in the OED or even Webster’s even remotely like Your’s. Did you, perchance, mean Yours?
Reading letters from your good self, Mr Lincoln-Palmistry, can be very confusing. I can only use the analogy of it being similar to attending a dinner party whilst listening to my Auntie Angela (the Mrs Malaprop of the late twentieth century) rambling on in a quasi intellectual manner; and I, meanwhile, trying to find a deeper meaning in her words; if such deeper meaning there be.
Your most obedient servant,
"Subjectivity" - What on earth does that mean?
Subjectivity - I wish it to be this way. Within the context of what was said, it means, I like to portray it this way.
Your narrow and anal interpretations leave your kind bones standing. The comma does not always conform to rigid rules and the author does get, quite some leeway about its use.
Commas? Brackets? Nuns? Do they always travel around in pairs?
Dear Mr Lincoln-Palmistry ,
I agree that the comma does not always conform to rigid rules, but it does have a function: namely to show where one may “draw breath” or to make a situation clear. Incorrect usage of commas can be confusing and clumsy, and worse, produce nonsensical written language. For example, look at the following which might have been written by someone who has a poor understanding of the use of the comma:
The comma does not always conform to rigid rules and the author does get, quite some leeway about its use.
The comma that follows get has absolutely no function at all. Commas, Mr Lincoln-Palmistry, tend to come in pairs, but this is not absolute, as with brackets. Or, as I have noticed, Nuns. Seldom do they wander around singly.
Your most obedient servant,
on behalf of
Mrs Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh (Matron)
‘Things To Do on Wet Afternoons’, ‘Social Clubs’, ‘Occupations’ and ‘Games’
Incidentally, Sir, you may be interested in the following.
I was looking in the records of Twilight Lawns plc -
‘Things To Do on Wet Afternoons’, ‘Social Clubs’, ‘Occupations’ and ‘Games’ when I found the following note:
Dear Mr Lincoln-Palmistry (Poet Laureate, formerly of Halstead, Essex),
We have been looking in the
Diary of Events,
September – October, 2008
We have been unable to discover when the last day for submissions to the Poetry Competition might be. We’ve all heard about it at breakfast time, luncheon, dinner and supper time, but nobody seems to have the same details. For some reason, all the pamphlets which were available in the Princess Margaret-Rose Library, and even those pinned up on the notice boards, have either been scribbled on so that they are indecipherable, or have been removed by some naughty person.
Maude thinks that the last day for entry is September, 14th, 2008; that the subject is Fluffy Bunnies; to be handed in to Charge Nurse Smythe in the Dispensary; hand written on Twilight Lawns notepaper, to be purchased at the Kiosk near the front door.
Cissie thinks that the last day for entry is November, 12th, 2008; that the subject is Sunsets and/or Shopping; to be handed in to Hilda on her days in the Office (Tuesdays and Thursdays); hand written or typed on the back of a postcard, to be purchased at the Kiosk near the front door.
Gertrude Number Two thinks that the last day for entry is October, 30th, 2008; that the subject is My Life is Rock and Roll; to be handed in to Matron in her Room; hand written on Twilight Lawns Lavatory Paper (Grade A+), obtainable from Charge Nurse Smythe at a nominal price.
Elspeth thinks that the last day for entry is Christmas Day, 2008; that the subject is Baby Jesus is My Friend; to be handed in to anyone who may be passing; hand written on notepaper, to be purchased at the Bookshop at Saint Anselm’s Streatham Common,
Sharon thinks that the last day for entry is tonight; that the subject is I Love Paki Boys or Boys or My favourite Lipstick or I’m a Disco Bunny; to be handed in to Raj, in his room, after twelve o’clock tonight; hand written on her knickers, to be purchased at the Kiosk at the Odeon All Male Cinema, Sleaze Street, Soho.
Raj thinks that the last day for entry is whenever you like that the subject is Skunk or Pakistan or Gardens Can be Profitable, Innit; to be texted to Dil se Radio from his mobile phone
Hermione thinks that the last day for entry is any Friday after afternoon tea; that the subject is Cuddles; to be handed in to Cook or any of the Kitchen Staff; typed on recipe blanks provided by Cook, at a small charge, if Matron isn’t around.
Phoebe thinks that the last day for entry is September, 14th, 1945; that the subject is Puddles or Being a Land Army Girl; to be handed in to the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall; hand written in code on recycled paper.
Mrs Eulalia Hawkins thinks that the last day for entry is August, 12th, 2008; that the subject is Mary Jane or Kingston or Rum and Coca-Cola; to be handed in to the Jamaican High Commissioner, wherever he may be; typed on A4 paper, from whatever source available.
The only thing that we seem to remember conclusively is that the poem must have between four and six verses. Each verse must have a rhyming pattern of ABCB or will be disqualified.
Maude, Cissie, Mrs Eulalia Hawkins, Hermione, Cook, Gertrude Number Two, Phoebe, Hilda, Elspeth and Sharon
Perhaps you may recall the furore that followed your judging of the poems.
Perhaps you may recall the furore that followed your judging of the poems offered in that competition, but more to the point: Did you realise that in the two poems that most drew your attention, Mr Jack Lincoln-Palmistry, there were one of two punctuation and grammar errors. As a gentleman who maintains that the English Language constitute his tools of craft, you seem to need quite a lot of help. And being the supportive and helpful soul that I am, I am ready and willing to provide that help right here.
Yours Maude Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh (Please, Mr Lincoln-Palmistry, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from addressing me by only using my Christian name)
I stand by my choice.
I stand by my choice. This poem, by dear Raj, shows and enthusiasm and love of the English language far beyond many more traditional works. It has a vitality and bravado that I have never seen or experienced outside my own lovely verses.
For those of you who would find the technology of the Mobile or Smartphone a little beyond them, and would like to read Raj’s lovely poem in a more familiar format, it is here produced in the adjacent box.
Dis pome’s took me more dan a minit
Im not sure how to start it or end it
But dere’s no 1 more better to send it
Cos Im wicked wiv mobile fones, Innit.
A lovely gift for People of Taste and Education.
The poem below is perfect, as it is in the best possible format, as you will see.
And as you will, no doubt agree, this lovely and very moving poem, by Cissie, follows all the suggestions in my book. The book with which you are, no doubt, acquainted.
Cuddles is a word that we know,
We’ve heard it a thousand times,
From our earliest childhood,
We’ve heard it in songs and in rhymes.
Cuddles is when your Mummy,
Cuddles you from behind,
Cuddles is best unexpected,
It’s Cuddlier then, you will find.
Cuddles can make you so happy
If you are terribly sad,
But Cuddles from perfect strangers,
Aren’t real Cuddles then; 'cause they’re bad.
Cuddles is a kind of protection,
When you’re having trouble at school,
Cuddles can make you feel better,
When your teacher calls you a fool.
Cuddles might help if your speling
And punctuation gets worses
But I ain't got no room to continue,
‘Cause my poems don’t have more than five verses.
The Princess Margaret-Rose Library: Notice for Relatives, Friends and Residents
Our Librarian, Daisy Oulde-Cashe, has asked if users of the Princess Margaret-Rose Library would kindly return the following. Please tick if applicable.
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