December 02, 2003

Not a pedant, but a stickler

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. Sounds like fun. The title and author might have been made up by a writer at the Onion, but this review (via A.L.D.) makes it all sound so real. Unfortunately neither nor have heard of the title or the ISBN (1861976127), but a trip to confirms that the book exists, and can be had by those who live in the UK or are willing to pay the freight.

Best lines in the review:

... in spite of the reference in the title to zero tolerance, Lynne Truss remains utterly good-natured throughout. She says she is not a pedant, but a stickler - which is a description that many of us would be happy to adopt. She does say that people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place, when they ought to know better, deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave, but it's probably mostly in fun.

You may not get the same set of "closely related" books from that I do, but if my list is typical, their system is either slyly inspired or totally FUBAR. Amazon suggests some expected stuff like Between You and I and The Adventure of English 500 AD -- 2000, but then they throw in The Book of Bunny Suicides ("yep, it's definitely bunnies committing suicide", says Clive Jones from Cambridgeshire) and Crap Towns: the 50 Worst Places to Live in the U.K. ("wish I'd had the idea as these people are going to make a fortune over Christmas", says "a reader from London"). Maybe the whole thing is just a bunch of virtual domains inside, after all ...

Or maybe the list is not the fault of some misdesigned or undertrained textual relatedness algorithm, but rather reflects amazon's marketing priorities?

Posted by Mark Liberman at December 2, 2003 07:59 PM