Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Title Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Author Lynne Truss
Country United Kingdom
Language Commonwealth English
Publisher Profile Books Ltd
Released November 6, 2003
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 228
ISBN ISBN 1-86197-612-7

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation is a short non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC's Cutting a Dash radio programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss laments the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States and describes how rules are being relaxed in today's society. Her goal is to remind her readers of the importance of punctuation in the English language by mixing humour and instruction. Truss dedicates the book “to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St. Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution.”


[edit] About the book

There is one chapter each on apostrophes and on commas; one on smileys, one on semicolons and colons; one on exclamation, question, and quotation marks, italic type, dashes, brackets, and ellipses; and one on hyphens. Truss touches on varied aspects of the history of punctuation, including many thoroughly-researched anecdotes, adding another dimension to her explanation of grammatical rules. In the book’s final chapter, she explains the importance of maintaining punctuation rules and addresses the damaging effects of e-mail and the Internet on punctuation.

Irish-American author Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, wrote the foreword to the U.S. edition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. In it, he praises Truss for bringing life back into the art of punctuation, starting off by stating, “If Lynne Truss were Catholic I’d nominate her for sainthood.” McCourt's tone is light-hearted, as is Truss's throughout the book.

Much to the surprise of the publisher and author, when it was first published in 2003 in the United Kingdom, the book was a huge commercial success. Then, in 2004, the U.S. edition became a New York Times bestseller. Contrary to usual publishing convention, the U.S. edition of the book left the original British conventions intact.

Early editions of the book were said to contain a punctuation error.

A later paperback edition included a free ‘punctuation repair kit’, with stickers for punctuation marks as well as ‘Panda Says No’ stickers for the worst mistakes.

[edit] The title

The title of the book is an amphibology, a verbal fallacy arising from an ambiguous grammatical construction, and derived from a joke on bad punctuation:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“Well, I'm a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

This joke is referred to in the book, but is not quoted therein, to the confusion of some readers who are not familiar with it. A variant of the joke, however, appears on the back cover.

[edit] Trivia

  • Allegedly, when Truss was driven to an award ceremony she told the driver that she wrote a book on punctuation. The cab-driver proceeded to say, “Well, you'd better not be late then.
  • A running gag in the book provides several sentence examples using Opal Fruits as a proper noun, and Truss's resentment of its name change in the UK to Starburst.
  • A parody of Eats, Shoots & Leaves titled Eats, Shites & Leaves: Crap English and How to Use it, by "A. Parody", was published in Great Britain by Michael O'Meara Books Limited in 2004 [1]

[edit] Criticism

In a 2004 review, Louis Menand of The New Yorker pointed out several punctuation errors in the book, including one in the dedication, and wrote, “An Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little like an American lecturing the French on sauces. Some of Truss’s departures from punctuation norms are just British laxness.”[1] Truss’s book is also one of the bêtes noires of the popular linguistics blog Language Log.[2]

[edit] Editions

  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (London: Profile Books, 2003) ISBN 1-86197-612-7 (UK hardback)
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (New York: Gotham Books, 2004) ISBN 1-59240-087-6 (US hardcover)
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (London: Profile Books, 2004) ISBN 1-86197-612-7 (Paperback, Special Indian Edition)

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Bad Comma: Lynne Truss's strange grammar by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 28 June 2004
  2. ^ Language Log. For a list of posts referring to Truss, see this page.

[edit] External links

In other languages