[LMB] OT: Prime News

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Tue Nov 14 14:42:43 GMT 2017

Marina: I may leave off the period when writing out the prefixes and
suffixes of names, e.g., Ms Janice Marshal Esq

John: And you might be correct to do so.

<dons the hat of precision>

The mark in question, though also used as a 'period' (i.e. a full stop), is
a suspension mark, indicating that one or usually more letters have been
suspended for writer's convenience. Such suspended letters are always the
final letters of a word ; if medial letters are suspended, the correct term
is a contraction, indicated by an enclitic apostrophe (don't,
can't, shan't).

Thus ed., vol., fig. are suspensions, and take a suspension mark, but eds,
vols, figs, are contractions, and don't. Mr and Dr should not have a mark,
nor Mrs (which though retaining one medial letter has the final one). Ms is
an invention in its own right, so it doesn't ; but Esq. ought to have a
mark, 'uire' being suspended.

If St = saint, no mark ; if St = street, writer's choice depending on which
't' you think remains, but the distinction of St. and St can be handy.

U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. are correct, but modern laziness has shifted to
omitting the proper suspension marks in abbreviations using all caps, thus
USA and USSR -- though one still quite often sees U.K. rather than UK.

Punctuation matters. I give you the villainous Mortimer Junior, from
Marlowe's *Edward II*:

"This letter, written by a friend of ours,
Contains his death, yet bids them save his life.
'Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est;
Fear not to kill the king, 'tis good he die.'
But read it thus, and that's another sense:
'Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est;
Kill not the king, 'tis good to fear the worst.'
Unpointed as it is, thus shall it go,
That, being dead, if it chance to be found,
Matrevis and the rest may bear the blame,
And we be quit that caused it to be done."

The difference in English punctuation would be whether you put a comma
after "nolite" or after "timere".

Or there's this one:

"Joe", said Bob, "is a fool."

Joe said, "Bob is a fool".

When in *A Midsummer Night's Dream" Duke Theseus says "This fellow cannot
stand upon his points", he is not being complimentary.

The Stops Buck Here!

<doffs the hat of precision>
John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member & Director of Studies in English, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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