Sep 242015
 

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Today is National Punctuation Day in the United States. The celebration was initiated by Jeff Rubin in 2004 with the aim of promoting the correct usage of punctuation. Rubin encourages appreciators of correct punctuation and spelling to send in pictures of errors spotted in everyday life.

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I’m afraid I may go hog wild on this topic, but I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm. Let’s start with some basics. Punctuation has evolved over the course of written language development. Its main purpose is to give guidance to readers concerning the meaning of written passages in the absence of vocal cues such as inflection, intonation, and pauses. Punctuation includes the use of spacing, conventional signs, and certain typographical devices which assist the reader, not only in correctly articulating the written word, but also in clearing up ambiguity. For example, “woman, without her man, is nothing” versus “woman: without her, man is nothing” are diametrically opposite in meaning. In spoken language the difference is clear by judicious use of pauses. In written form the punctuation is essential for clarity.

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The first writing systems were either logographic or syllabic—for example, Chinese and Maya script—which do not necessarily require punctuation, especially spacing. This is because the entire morpheme or word is typically clustered within a single character or glyph, so spacing does not help much to distinguish where one word ends and the other starts.

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In ancient Europe most texts were written in scriptura continua, that is without any separation between words. However, the Greeks began sporadically using punctuation marks consisting of vertically arranged dots—usually two (dicolon) or three (tricolon)—in around the 5th century BCE as an aid in the oral delivery of texts. Greek playwrights such as Euripides and Aristophanes used symbols to distinguish the ends of phrases in written drama. This essentially helped the play’s cast to know when to pause. After 200 BCE, the Greeks used a system (called théseis) of a single dot (punctus) placed at varying heights to mark up speeches at rhetorical divisions:

hypostigmḗ – a low punctus on the baseline to mark off a komma (unit smaller than a clause);

stigmḕ mésē – a punctus at midheight to mark off a clause (kōlon); and

stigmḕ teleía – a high punctus to mark off a sentence (periodos).

Punctuation developed dramatically in the Middle Ages when large numbers of copies of the Bible started to be produced. These were designed to be read aloud, so the copyists began to introduce a range of marks to aid the reader, including indentation, various punctuation marks (diple, paragraphos, simplex ductus), and an early version of initial capitals (litterae notabiliores). In the 7th to 8th centuries Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes, whose native languages were not derived from Latin, added more visual cues to render texts more intelligible. Irish scribes also introduced the practice of word separation.

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From the invention of movable type in Europe in the 1450s the amount of printed material and a readership for it began to increase. The rise of printing in the 15th century meant that a standard system of punctuation was urgently needed. The introduction of a standard system of punctuation has been attributed to the Venetian printers Aldus Manutius and his grandson. They have been credited with popularizing the practice of ending sentences with a colon or full stop, inventing the semicolon, making occasional use of parentheses, and creating the modern comma. In 1566, Aldus Manutius the Younger stated that the main object of punctuation was the clarification of syntax.

So there you have it in brief. That’s how the publishing world landed up with editors and style manuals, and a raft of rules which I, and many others, spend a lifetime breaking, intentionally and unintentionally. I’m not exactly a stickler, as long time readers of this blog will acknowledge, but I have my moments of pedantry. Misuse of the apostrophe of possession makes me cringe, but it is the misuse of spacing that drives me mental. “Everyday” and “every day” have different meanings !!

Perhaps the most noted use of the need for proper punctuation is the following sentence presented to you here, unpunctuated, as a puzzle. How would you punctuate it to make sense of it?

James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.

The sentence refers to two students, James and John, who had been required in an English test to describe a man who, in the past, had suffered from a cold. John wrote “The man had a cold,” which the teacher marked as incorrect, while James wrote the correct “The man had had a cold.” Since James’s answer was right, it had had a better effect on the teacher. Hence:

James, while John had had “had,” had had “had had”; “had had” had had a better effect on the teacher.

OK, you can take a moment. If you say it out loud, you will see how vocal stress, intonation, and pauses make sense of the string of “hads.”

What follows may cause WordPress to go nuts – and I along with it. Rare, innovative, and obsolete punctuation marks are not always supported by standard computer fonts. So I may have to resort to some fancy foot work.

For rare or obsolete punctuation I give the fleuron as an example. The fleuron is one of the oldest typographic ornaments. In early Greek and Latin texts, the fleuron (or hedera) was used as an inline character to divide paragraphs, in similar manner to the pilcrow (look it up!). It can also be used to fill the whitespace that results from the indentation of the first line of a paragraph, on a line by itself to divide paragraphs in a stylized way, to divide lists, or for pure ornamentation. Four fleurons are included in the Unicode dingbats block: U+2740 ❀ white florette (HTML ❀), U+2741 ❁ eight petalled outlined black florette (HTML ❁), U+2766 ❦ floral heart (HTML ❦), and U+2767 ❧ rotated floral heart bullet (HTML ❧).

Written English lacks a standard way to mark irony, and several forms of punctuation have been proposed. Among the oldest and most frequently attested are the percontation point proposed by English printer Henry Denham in the 1580s, and the irony mark, used by Marcellin Jobard and French poet Alcanter de Brahm during the 19th century. Both marks take the form of a reversed (i.e. mirrored) question mark.

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Rhetorical questions in some informal situations can use a bracketed question mark, e.g. “Oh, really[?]”. The equivalent for an ironic or sarcastic statement would be a bracketed exclamation mark, e.g. “Oh, really[!]”. Subtitles, such as in Teletext, sometimes use an exclamation mark within brackets or parentheses to mark sarcasm.

It is common in online conversation among computer specialists to use an XML closing tag: </sarcasm>. The tag is often written only after the sarcasm so as to momentarily trick the reader before admitting the joke. Another example is the use of bracketed text with the symbol for the element iron (<Fe> and </Fe>) to denote irony. Commonly used on social news-based sites is a single /s, placed at the end of a comment to indicate a sarcastic tone for the preceding text. Typing in all-capital letters, and emoticons such as “rolling eyes,” “:>” and “:P” are often used nowadays, particularly in instant messaging.

The interrobang, also known as the interabang, ‽ (often represented by ?! or !?), is a nonstandard punctuation mark used in various written languages and intended to combine the functions of the question mark (also called the “interrogative point”) and the exclamation mark or exclamation point (known in printers’ and programmers’ jargon as the “bang”). The glyph is a superimposition of these two marks.

A sentence ending with an interrobang asks a question in an excited manner, expresses excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asks a rhetorical question.

For example:

Say what‽

She’s pregnant‽

In informal English, the same inflection is usually notated by ending a sentence with first a question mark and then an exclamation mark, or vice versa.

I tend to be rather freewheeling in my use of punctuation, to the endless frustration of my editors. My commonest habit (somewhat standard) is to use three periods to mark a trailing off – for example, “with love . . .” or “to be continued . . .” I pretty well always use two exclamation marks separated from the text by a space to indicate surprise or disbelief because computer fonts these days are not always clear.

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Just to make a point, here’s my recipe for cock-a-leekie soup, reprinted without spacing or punctuation as it might have appeared 700 years ago:

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youllneedyourbiggeststockpotputamediumsizedchicken34lbsinandcoverwithchickenstockbrin
ggentlytoasimmerwhilstaddingcoarselychoppedonionsthetendergreenpartsofseveralleekscho
ppedahandfulofchoppedfreshparsleyandlashingsoffreshlygroundblackpepperabsolutelycriti
calskimthescumfromthetopasitrisesthenpartlycoverandsimmerforaboutanhouroruntilthemeat
istenderbutnotboiledtodeathyouwantthemeatjuicyremovethechickenfromthebrothandsetitasi
detocoolalittlebeforestrippingthemeatfromthebonesandcuttinginbitesizedchunkskeephebro
thonasimmerandaddinthewhitepartoftheleekscutintothickroundslettheleekspoachuntiltheya
realdentethenaddbackinthechickentothoroughlywarmthroughplusanextrahandfulofchoppedpar
sleyandmoreblackpepperservepipinghotindeepbowlswithcrustybread

Enjoy !!

[My spellchecker went crazy.]

Jul 262015
 

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Today is the birthday of Carl Gustav Jung (1875), often referred to as C. G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies. He was a prolific writer, though many of his works were not published until after his death. Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and extraversion and introversion.

Jung was a solitary and introverted child. From childhood he believed that, like his mother (who had a day and a night persona which were radically different), he had two personalities—a modern Swiss citizen and a personality more suited to the eighteenth century. “Personality Number 1,” as he termed it, was a typical schoolboy living in the era of the time. “Personality Number 2″ was a dignified, authoritative and influential man from the past.  Do you begin to see why I like the man but am a bit suspicious of him?

A number of childhood memories made lifelong impressions on him. As a boy he carved a tiny mannequin into the end of the wooden ruler from his pencil case and placed it inside the case. He added a stone which he had painted into upper and lower halves, and hid the case in the attic. Periodically he would return to the mannequin, often bringing tiny sheets of paper with messages inscribed on them in his own secret language. He later reflected that this ceremonial act brought him a feeling of inner peace and security. Years later he discovered similarities between his personal experience and the practices associated with totems in indigenous cultures, such as the collection of soul-stones near Arlesheim or the tjurungas of Australia. He concluded that his intuitive ceremonial act was an unconscious ritual, which he had practiced in a way that was strikingly similar to those in distant locations which he, as a young boy, knew nothing about. His conclusions about symbols, psychological archetypes, and the collective unconscious were inspired, in part, by these experiences. Whilst I greatly admire people who have been weirdos from birth, I am skeptical of the utility of their ideas.

At the age of twelve, shortly before the end of his first year at the Humanistisches Gymnasium in Basel, Jung was pushed to the ground by another boy so hard that he momentarily lost consciousness. A thought then came to him—”now you won’t have to go to school any more.” From then on, whenever he walked to school or began homework, he fainted. He remained at home for the next six months until he overheard his father speaking hurriedly to a visitor about the boy’s future ability to support himself. They suspected he had epilepsy. Confronted with the reality of his family’s limited means, he realized the need for academic excellence. He went into his father’s study and began poring over Latin grammar. He fainted three more times but eventually overcame the urge and did not faint again. This event, Jung later recalled, “was when I learned what a neurosis is.”

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Jung did not plan to study psychiatry since it was not considered prestigious at the time. But, studying a psychiatric textbook, he became very excited when he discovered that psychoses are personality diseases. His interest was immediately captured—it combined the biological and the spiritual, exactly what he was searching for. In 1895 Jung studied medicine at the University of Basel.

In 1900 Jung began working at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital in Zürich with Eugen Bleuler. Bleuler was already in communication with the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Jung’s dissertation, published in 1903, was titled On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena. In 1906 he published Studies in Word Association, and later sent a copy of this book to Freud.

Eventually a close friendship and a strong professional association developed between the elder Freud and Jung, which left a sizeable correspondence. For six years they cooperated in their work. In 1912, however, Jung published Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (known in English as Psychology of the Unconscious), which made manifest the developing theoretical divergence between the two. Consequently, their personal and professional relationship fractured—each stating that the other was unable to admit he could possibly be wrong. After the culminating break in 1913, Jung went through a difficult and pivotal psychological transformation, exacerbated by the outbreak of the First World War. Henri Ellenberger called Jung’s intense experience a “creative illness” and compared it favorably to Freud’s own period of what he called neurasthenia and hysteria.

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What I find troubling and unhelpful about both Freud’s and Jung’s theorizing is an aggrandizing tendency on both their parts to turn personal experience into universal experience – “if I have felt it, everyone must feel it.” I hypothesize that this is whence Jung’s concept of the archetype derives. Always being honest up front, I will readily admit that I find the notion of the archetype to be vague, ethnocentric, and ultimately misleading and worthless.

In Jungian psychology, archetypes are highly developed elements of the collective unconscious. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. Carl Jung thought of archetypes as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world. They are autonomous and hidden forms which are transformed once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. There is obviously something mystical about the idea of archetypes – pre-existing ideas that we are somehow born with (the exact opposite of the notion of “the blank slate”). Here we have the “nature vs nurture” debate yet again with Jung lying somewhere in the middle. I am sympathetic to this middle ground in general but not to Jung’s way in particular.

Jung described archetypal events: birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites; archetypal figures: great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero; and archetypal motifs: the apocalypse, the deluge, the creation. Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few particularly notable, recurring archetypal images, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman”.

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Jung, in exploring these types, is in line with 19th century anthropologists such as James George Frazer who wanted to universalize the particulars of all cultures, a tendency that found modern expression in the works of Joseph Campbell. I do recognize that Jung distinguished between the inchoate, primordial archetype and its actualization in the physical world. But there is no denying that purported archetypes, such as the hero, tend to become rigid and doctrinaire. Jung himself was confused and confusing on this point, and his disciples more so. You can see “the dragon” everywhere if you want to – dragon images exist in all cultures. But there is a world of difference between the Medieval European dragon and the ancient Chinese one, the former being malevolent and the latter benevolent. Of course you can argue that these two opposing images are surface manifestations of opposing archetypes, but then you just descend into a muddled realm of “everything is everything.”

The archetypes I find most troublesome are masculine and feminine. There is no need to resort to mystical primitivism to tease these out; they are common, everyday experiences. Archetypal thinking has a habit of essentializing these qualities in unhelpful and potentially harmful ways. People speak, therefore, of their “masculine side” and their “feminine side.” Why do that? Why not just talk about being kind, loving, caring, cruel, domineering, or what have you? Why codify and classify these qualities as masculine or feminine, and why universalize them? They are simply human qualities. Classifying in this way seems a tad 19th century Germanic to me. Try learning Chinese count words if you need convincing that different cultures classify in different ways: (“things that are flat and useful,” such as bus tickets and dining tables, or “things that are segmented,” such as bamboo and trains).

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Jungians sometimes ask questions such as “what is your favorite color?” or “what is your favorite food?” and then “why?” as a way of probing the archetypal meaning(s) of our experiences. OK. I’m game. I thought about this for a while and came up with cock-a-leekie soup as my favorite dish. Actually I find such a question a bit fatuous. But you can distill it down to something like “what would you like for your last meal?” Cock-a-leekie resonates with me on many levels. I note in reviewing past posts that I’ve often mentioned cock-a-leekie but have never actually given a recipe. Time to change that.

My father, a Scot, was fond of making cock-a-leekie especially at Christmas time, and I learnt how to make it from him (principally by watching). So, it speaks to me of FATHERS AND SONS, FAMILY, and TRADITION. I always make it on Christmas Eve now in memory of the times when my sisters and their families gathered at our house. It is WARM, and COMFORTING. I always feel happy when I sit down to a bowl. It is VERSATILE. I always make gallons at a time and use the broth later as a basis for gravies and stews. It is SIMPLE: simple to make and simple in flavors. It is NOURISHING. You’ve just got to have crusty bread with it, homemade if possible (fresh from the oven), but cock-a-leekie is a complete meal all by itself.

I’ve looked at a ton of recipes in my time (some insisting that prunes are a traditional and essential ingredient – ugh) but they all come down to an archetype.

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©Cock-a-Leekie Soup

You’ll need your biggest stock pot. Put a medium sized chicken (3-4 lbs) in and cover with chicken stock. Bring gently to a simmer whilst adding coarsely chopped onions, the tender green parts of several leeks chopped, a handful of chopped fresh parsley, and lashings of freshly ground black pepper (absolutely critical). Skim the scum from the top as it rises, then partly cover and simmer for about an hour (or until the meat is tender but not boiled to death – you want the meat juicy).

Remove the chicken from the broth and set it aside to cool a little before stripping the meat from the bones and cutting in bite sized chunks.

Keep the broth on a simmer and add in the white part of the leeks cut into thick rounds. Let the leeks poach until they are al dente, then add back in the chicken to thoroughly warm through, plus an extra handful of chopped parsley and more black pepper.

Serve piping hot in deep bowls with crusty bread.