Friday, February 1, 2013
A Comma's Tail
He was so very tiny, but he had such a cute tail. At least, he thought it was cute, although some of the full stops teased him terribly. “Look at you, letting it all hang out there below the line,” they would say. He, at least, could waggle his tail back at them. What did they have to waggle?
“Will I lose my tail when I get older?” he had asked his mother one day.
“Aaah,” she had replied slowly. “You’re too young yet to be thinking about your future career. For now, just enjoy it.”
His mother had also started life as a comma, but had married a full stop. From their lifelong partnership together as a semi-colon, he had been born. He wondered if he might one day get married himself. While keeping his tail, he could marry a full stop, as his mother had done, or marry another comma to form quotation marks. He thought he would prefer to join up with someone else to form double quotes, rather than to stay on his own to become a single quote. Everyone always seemed uncomfortable around single quotes, not quite knowing what they were for. On the other hand, if he lost his tail to become a full stop, he could marry either a comma, in a semi-colonic relationship, or another full stop, so that together they could become a colon. But colons were also rare and rather misunderstood. At the moment he favoured keeping his tail. But he didn’t relish spending the rest of his life alone, dangling from a line.
As the years passed, and the little comma matured, he remained single. He flirted for a while with one or two other commas, hovering at the beginning or end of some direct speech. His proudest moment, during those years of early adulthood, was when he teamed up for a time with a friend to form the initial quotes in an exciting and popular blog, whenever they were needed. He was never quite comfortable in this role, however, because it was not easy to find a pair of end quotes with whom they both felt comfortable. This led to frequent arguments, and, ultimately, to he and his quote partner going their separate ways.
Fortunately, luck was with him. Or, at least, so he reckoned. He heard of a vacancy in a shop window: good steady work. A new business was opening up in the neighbourhood, and they needed... Yes! They needed an apostrophe! After his unfortunate relationship, he thought that this would suit him down to the ground. No need to dangle his tail below the line. No need for a partner, let alone three of them. So he applied for the job, and was successful. He was experienced, presented himself well, and knew exactly how to use his tail. Salary was negotiated – and what a salary! Contracts were signed. Dates were set. On the great day he presented himself, standing proudly, waiting to be set in place. Then, as he was lifted and carefully positioned, he looked at his context, ready to greet his neighbours politely. And the colour drained from his face. But it was too late. The contract was airtight – and long term. If he broke the contract now, he would never work again. So there he was destined to remain for many years. He would have hidden if he could, but the sign was large and bold. He prayed that the business would fail, but it thrived.
He is there to this day. So, if you ever pass this way, look out for that very successful little business, and spare a thought for this little comma-turned-apostrophe, whose mother has disowned him:
Professional sign’s and lettering