Friday 16 August 2013

Ode to the exclamation mark (dedicated to Fran)

Fran has written a brilliant sonnet bemoaning the demise of the semi-colon. So while I'm not as clever as she is, and couldn't write a sonnet to save my life, I thought I'd contribute a little verse about my own bete noir: the exclamation mark.

The semi-colon's gone, but hark!
Here comes the exclamation mark.
Unsubtle, crass (though tall and slim),
With hobnailed boots it charges in
To give us all a playful poke:
"Come on,  now! Geddit? Get the joke?!"
In notes and letters, they'll be found.
In "funny" greetings cards, they abound.
Sometimes in twos, or even threes,
To emphasise, or mock, or tease.
"Having a lovely time!" they shout,
"The wine is strong!! The sun is out!!!"
"Went paddling among the breakers
(Now Gilbert's with the undertakers!!!!!")

This, gentle reader, makes me sad,
For what do all these EMs add?
It's time we learnt, the only occasion
For the exclamation  mark, is - an exclamation.

(Apostrophe poem, anyone?)


  1. A poem about the apostrophe,
    Could only be a catastrophe,
    Contractions? fine,
    But not the bits
    About possession... when the word is 'its'!

    Pretty hopeless I know, but it did only take a couple of minutes and I managed to get a nice exclamation in. (Think I'll stick with the short stories)

    1. Brilliant, Wendy! (That of course was an exclamation.)

  2. There was an apostrophe in Milton Keynes
    Who jumped all over the grocer's greens
    Cabbage's and cauli's
    Sprout's, lettuce and pea's
    It even had a go at the broad bean's!

    1. Another brilliant one. Why is that green grocers are especially inclined to this abuse?

  3. This is just what I needed to make me laugh out loud after a rather demanding week, having been called in for a last-minute rescue mission at our biggest customer's.
    Thank you, Frances, Wendy and Patsy!
    (And yes, this IS an exclamation.)

  4. What a radical idea! Reserve the exclamation mark for exclamations!

    I mean,

    What a radical idea. Reserve the exclamation mark for exclamations.

    I shall try to restrain myself from now on.

  5. I hear you!
    Loud and clear!!
    Thanks for posting!!!

  6. Frances! Fancy treating such a serious subject with undue levity. I'm shocked and rather disappointed. As for a poem on the apostrophe I would if I could but the little problem of ability, or lack of it, raises its head.

    1. You'll never know till you try, GB. Have a go. You might surprise yourself...?

  7. I love the exclamation mark
    I know it's overused.
    But when I can't speak face to face
    It seems a good excuse
    To get across the meaning
    Of what I'm trying to say,
    And hope that the recipient
    Won't judge my lazy ways!!

    Not good, but I do like the EM!

    1. I know what you mean Maggie. Unfortunately although I agree with Frances that it's overused and should be for exclamations (obviously) I'm sad to say that in practice I do overuse it to emphasise things. The problem is that it's now so overused it no longer has much meaning. It arises, I think, because we 'talk' to each other so much nowadays using instant communication and blogging etc.

    2. With that excellent verse, Maggie, you can get away with anything! (And that WAS an exclamation.)

  8. It's an interesting linguistic development -is it something to do with the fact that we use email and social media so much now we don't actually speak to others much and feel this is a way to get a point across? I must admit I have to restrain myself.(See, I was tempted to put an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence,but resisted).

    1. I think a EM would have been fine there, Myra. I often use them to reply to comments; after all, "thanks!" is often an exclamation. I just think people use them so much that they've lost all their meaning. We get those Christmas round robins absolutely peppered with them, quite meaninglessly.

  9. That's brilliant AND very clever indeed. I've never written one about the exclamation mark, but it needed doing.

    1. Fran I was really hoping to lure you out to write an apostrophe one?

  10. A fun challenge, Francis, to come up with an apostrophe poem.
    Hardly the occasion for an ode (in keeping with the Ode to the Exclamation Mark!), the apostrophe’s generally not missing, but getting that word into a poem was trickier than I thought when I got down to it. Because no one else seems to have stepped up to the plate, so to speak, I’ve taken Apostrophe as Muse, and been - amused. An additional challenge was to get one apostrophe into each line- sheesh!

    Apostrophe’s Apostrophe;
    like all of us, she's needs to be.
    She fills in if a letter’s gone,
    and if she’s missing there’s a song
    and dance – because she's has been forgot!
    In Punctuation’s rules we’re caught
    confused, and sometimes we don’t know
    (to use our 'postrophe, or no?)
    Is’t its or it’s, or they’re or their,
    or ever, e’er, or never, n’er?

    Here’s my advice, just let her be,
    Apostrophe’s Apostrophe!

    Take care, Mc Gregor