The audacity of punctuation: Word nerds stopped by Obama slogan, ‘Forward.’

August 2, 2012

in Grammar, Just funny, Punctuation, Signs and headlines

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Forget the audacity of hope — Obama’s real audacity is grammatical.

Obama has ruffled some feathers recently, but not exactly the same feathers he regularly ruffles. This time it’s the word nerds, and even more specifically, the punctuation nerds, who are displeased with the President.

The source of their displeasure? A period. That’s right, a small dot no larger than the tip of your pen. More specifically, the period that follows his new one-word slogan, “FORWARD.”

According to a Wall Street Journal piece analyzing the kerfuffle, the concern is that the slogan is not a sentence, and in any case, the period undercuts the slogan’s intended sense of moving, well, forward.

Obama’s staff apparently had a spirited debate on whether to include the period, and politicians and editors have weighed in on the dot in question.

My favorite comment is the one by Rep. Pete King (R., N.Y.), who called the period “sort of a buzz kill.”

The Journal puts the controversy in context by providing this handy condensed history of grammatically questionable campaign slogans:

In 1992, George H.W. Bush’s line, “Who do you trust?” generated chatter about the use of “who” versus “whom.” Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 slogan “I like Ike” is clearly a sentence, but didn’t include a period. George W. Bush’s “Yes, America Can” slogan included a comma; Mr. Obama’s “Yes We Can” chant four years later did not.

Meanwhile, the title of the super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, “Restore Our Future,” seems to bend the rules of space and time, if not grammar.

So there’s a nice point of shared bipartisan experience. Kumbaya!

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