Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spot the difference

I recently submitted a review of Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Just yesterday I received the glorious hard copy of the latest edition of Viewpoint in the post. Below is the sentence as I submitted it for publication:

"... it is the story of Changez’s time studying and working in the United States and being absorbed into the culture which grew from the September 11 attacks.

And here is the sentence as published:

"... it is the story of Changez’s time studying and working in the United States and being absorbed into the culture, which grew from the September 11 attacks.


On the one hand, I'm annoyed that my review (or at least that sentence) has been turned from a factual recounting of the basic plot of the novel into a broad statement about the United States' culture after the September 11 attacks.
On the other, I stand in quiet awe that a simple comma can transform so much.
I love language.


  1. Ah, the english language. Not my best subject, but I do see what you mean by that sentence entirely changing by the use of a that comma.

    Perhaps they want you to provocate a few readers.

    GTH: Media watch after the September 11 attacks - the way different reporting can totally change a person's perception on a story.

  2. I present to you, the amazing power of, "The Comma".

    It's my firm belief that the world of editing needs more proofreaders. The excessive misuse of commas and apostrophes is sending me around the bend. Not to mention spelling mistakes.

  3. I don't get it? In both sentences the "growing" belongs to the "culture"; the increasing climate of fear. I can maybe see how with the comma it might sound as if all culture in the USA was caused by 9/11 but it's hardly "eats, shoots and leaves".

    Unless I'm missing something? Bugger this I'm off to learn lojban.

  4. "provocate", Shippy?
    Did you make that up? Clever.

  5. Not on purpose.. :). It's one of those "it doesn't sound quite right" hit enter "oh damn, I'm an idiot" kind of words.

    Me english good, my grandma is better.

  6. The use of comma is indeed powerful thus transforming one thought to another thought. I do understand your point. What I usually do before I pass my essayontime or any other write ups, I make sure that I thought to the publisher and make every point clear but of course, it is beyond the writer's control if certain things will not be followed.


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32