‘Read’ this column

By Derrick Knutson

I’d like to bring some attention to perhaps the most entertaining punctuation mistake in the English language: the misuse of quotation marks.

I was recently cruising the Internet and I came across a website devoted to signs that don’t exactly employ the intended use for quotation marks.

One sign pictured on the site touts a “free” clothing giveaway.

Better bring some cash.

Another offers a tasty tropical fruit for just $2: “special” pineapple chunks.

What makes them so special? If you were going with the 1960’s brownie logic, I’d guess marijuana.

Thanks to the Internet and sites like Facebook, you, me and most everybody out there gets to see a slew of spelling and grammatical mistakes pretty much on a daily basis.

Some are very prevalent, like the incorrect uses of “your,” “you’re,” and maybe, if you are a fan of ancient lands and times, “yore.”

Same goes for “there,” “their” and “they’re.”

Example: Fans of Frosted Flakes think there great! Are they you’re favorite breakfast cereal?

Sure, I get a kick out of finding misuses of the aforementioned homonyms, but discovering out-of-place employment of quotation marks is like playing the Where’s Waldo of the punctuation world.

It’s not the most common punctuation mistake, but when you find it there’s a moment of elation that’s similar to spotting that red-and-white sweater-wearing pipsqueak among a jumble of distracting images on a book page.

I’ve sporadically seen the mistake on Facebook and other sites on the Internet, sometimes made by people I know, and I usually have a good chuckle and let it slide.

I don’t want to seem like some grammar overlord and correct their every mistake.

Heck, I might make a spalling or gremmer mistake in this here “column,” and I sure wouldn’t want everyone writing in about it.

Besides, I look at spotting the mistake more as a joyous occasion than an irritating occurrence.

I think finding misused quotation marks on a daily basis would make life better.

Imagine seeing a red, octagonal sign at a street corner that reads, “stop.”

True, the quotation marks could lead to some highly dangerous driving situations, but they might also lead to the advent of rubber cars that can withstand high-speed impacts.

If stopping at intersections were optional, we’d need to drive sturdier vehicles.

How fun would it be to hop in a bumper car everyday of the workweek and slam, willy-nilly, into other padded vehicles?

I think it would also be pretty interesting to walk into a deli and see a sign over a protein-laden fare marked “ham.”

Is it ham, or is the meat-slinging outfit just yanking my chain?

Could be cat. Could be iguana. Who knows?

The possibilities for the entertaining misuse of quotation marks are seemingly endless — “gluten free,” “you must be this tall to ride,” “pasteurized milk.” Man, quote marks on phrases like that would keep you on your toes.

An idyllic land, laden with masses of entertaining quotation mark mistakes probably doesn’t exist, which means I’ll likely have to keep up my Where’s Waldo-esque search for the little gems here and there.

But if such a place does exist, I hope I find it and I sincerely hope there’s a jar of eating utensils in a restaurant there marked “clean spoons.”

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